As COVID-19 vaccinations attempt to outpace a potential fourth wave, late night continues to slowly go back to “normal.” One sign nature is healing: A new late-night show just appeared on the scene. Gutfeld! premiered on Fox News this week, and … we have some notes. Conan, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and The Tonight Show all had a mix of in-studio and remote guests this week, while The Late Late Show continued its convivial slumber-party vibes with a staff-filled audience. Ian Karmel’s impromptu Freddie Mercury impression just barely missed the top five late-night moments this week, but every COVID monologue on that show is a unique delight. In her A Little Late With Lilly Singh interview, Amber Ruffin pointed out that COVID filming restrictions have allowed late-night shows to get really weird. Late night has been dancing like nobody’s watching, and I’m loath to see that energy go when in-studio audiences become the norm again. Here’s how late night used (hopefully) one of their last weeks of audience-free freedom.
5. Conan O’Brien Longs for Vaccine Eligibility
On April 5, Conan O’Brien once again checked to see if NATIONAL TREASURES (you gotta type it all-caps because that’s how he yells it) were eligible for the vaccine. California recently opened up vaccination to everyone over 55, which includes O’Brien, but he needed that NATIONAL TREASURE status confirmed. As he checked the vaccine-eligibility website, O’Brien discovered that he’s still not treasured enough for his jab. This bit works purely on funny made-up names. O’Brien isn’t a NATIONAL TREASURE, but Colbert is. So is cellist Conor O’Brien, arborist Con A. Nobrien, and inventor Conor O’Breen. It’s pure Bort license plate silliness.
4. Jimmy Fallon Holds Himself TikTok Accountable
Two weeks ago, Addison Rae appeared on The Tonight Show to perform famous TikTok dances, and it wasn’t great. The show was criticized for giving Rae a national platform rather than the people (mostly people of color) who’d actually invented the dances. Comparisons to Hairspray were made, with viewers noting that Rae’s interpretation of the dance moves lacked the originators’ oomph. Without actually saying “Sorry,” Jimmy Fallon said sorry on April 5 by welcoming the TikTok choreographers on the show. Fallon interviewed the originators of the “Up,” “Corvette Corvette,” “Blinding Lights,” and “Savage” challenges over Zoom. It was nice to see their slightly pixelated glee at being on a TV show. Rae was flown in for her Tonight Show appearance, but Zoom’s good too.
3. Amber Ruffin and Lilly Singh Address the Drama
When it was announced that Amber Ruffin’s Peacock show would take over Lilly Singh’s NBC time slot for two weeks, Singh said she was thrilled: “I was like ‘Yes, I wanna support Amber, I love this.’” Unfortunately, according to Singh, some news outlets made it seem like the two were vying for the same slot rather than supporting each other. On April 7, Ruffin and Singh squashed the imaginary beef on A Little Late, and they also shouted out Sam Jay and Ziwe Fumudoh’s upcoming shows. Weirdly, they didn’t name-check Gutfeld!
Ruffin also explained one unexpected benefit of starting a late-night show during COVID: “If you don’t have an audience to tell you ‘This is too weird,’ then you just get weirder and weirder.” Singh demanded the two collab on a truly bonkers sketch once such things are legal to do again. Wouldn’t it be great to have a distaff counterpart to the “Late-Night Fight” from The Colbert Report?
2. Leslie Jordan Calls Out a Long-Dead Sitcom Star
WWHL often relies on tea spillage. On what subjects are guests willing to dish? It depends on the star. Leslie Jordan and Niecy Nash were both asked who were the biggest divas they’d ever worked with, but only Jordan chose to name names. Andy Cohen pointed out that a diva can be a good thing, but Jordan had a good and bad diva to discuss. Of course, his worst diva is no longer around to hear his disparaging remarks. “Her name was Mary Frann and she’s no longer with us,” he said. “Ooh, she was just horrid!” Apparently, Jordan shit-talked Frann at his agency, not knowing Frann’s husband was in the building. According to Jordan, her husband hollered, “I agree on all points!” from across the room. Nash and Jordan both had positive divas to shout-out — Oprah and Lady Gaga, respectively — but hearing someone slag off ’70s sitcom stars is what late-night TV is all about.
1. David Alan Grier Forgets His Interview Look
Allegedly — allegedly! — David Alan Grier thought his April 5 Jimmy Kimmel Live interview would be over Zoom, even though he had to drive there. That’s why he wore leopard-print basketball shorts. I’m not sure that’s true, because Grier has the Fit of the Week™. It’s so good: the tie-dye, the leopard print, the Adidas slip-ons. Grier’s legs are so shiny! Kimmel says he can see one testicle! You want a late-night outfit that starts conversation, and getting a ball out definitely steers talk in a certain direction. But the interview presented more delights than that. Previously, this column has investigated whether all talk-show hosts and guests are friends or not. The answer is usually “No,” but Kimmel’s parents have given Grier a leftover chicken dish. If that’s not friendship, I don’t know what is.
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