With more than 136,000 cases of the coronavirus confirmed worldwide, businesses everywhere are enforcing shutdowns: your favorite makeup store and the happiest place on Earth are two of the giants, among many, to temporarily close shop. Unfortunately for everyone stuck at home and in need of a good laugh, late-night TV shows will also be taking breaks.
Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert, and Jimmy Fallon were the first three hosts to announce that they would suspend production. Meyers canceled his Thursday night episode, opting instead to share his “Closer Look” segment via YouTube. Other hosts — including Colbert, Fallon, Samantha Bee, Jimmy Kimmel, Trevor Noah, and James Corden — shared final episodes this week without a live audience. John Oliver will host one final episode of Last Week Tonight this Sunday before joining the others on a hiatus.
“Due to the increasing threat of the coronavirus, we wanted to do the responsible thing and not have an audience,” Bee said in her opening remarks on Wednesday. “Okay, we have some people — but they work for us, and they are sitting six feet apart as recommended by the CDC. And also because they hate each other.”
Hours after President Donald Trump declared a national state of emergency on Friday, all of the aforementioned hosts announced that they would be stepping back for the foreseeable future. Networks have hope that the shows will be able to return at the end of March. As it was, Saturday Night Live was already on a scheduled hiatus until March 28. During the hiatus, channels such as Comedy Central, CBS, and NBC will be airing reruns of the postponed late-night shows.
There are multiple reasons that late night shows are going dark. Networks are worried about crowds, and are encouraging employees and guests alike to practice social distancing. TBS also announced in a statement that Full Frontal would be going on hiatus after two employees who work in the same building as Bee were diagnosed with the virus on Thursday.
Fallon opened his final episode of The Tonight Show with an emotional message. “Like you, I'm watching the news and I'm just as confused and freaked out as you are. I know that [Trump's] speech last night didn't help,” he said. “But what I do know is that when we're there for each other, we're at our best. And I am here for you. We are here for you.”
On Bee’s last episode, she called out racist coverage of the virus. “Tying coronavirus to China and Chinese people isn't just a racist dog whistle. It's a whole racist orchestra,” she said. “It's a mighty, mighty racist bosstone. The coronavirus is not an excuse to be racist.”
And before Meyers signed off, he denounced the way Trump has handled the pandemic. “Our government is massively failing us at time when the nation is looking for guidance,” he said. “So now it’s up to the media, public health officials, workplaces, and individuals to take this seriously. Practice caution and lead where the president is failing.”
As of Friday, morning shows, including Live With Kelly and Ryan and Good Morning America, will still air without a live audience.
COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic. Go to the CDC website for the latest information on symptoms, prevention, and other resources.