Why Late Night Shows Need An Audience

Late night hosts like Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert are bringing audiences back after over a year without them. We’re explaining why they’re so important.

Alexis Crandall

AfterBuzz TV Host & Writer
Posted On: June 4th, 2021 4:07 pm pst

Maria Menounos
Keven Undergaro
AfterBuzz TV Founders

Founded by Emmy winning journalist Maria Menounos and Producer Keven Undergaro, AfterBuzz TV is the artist-friendly entertainment news platform that celebrates, discusses, interviews, promotes and reports on the widest range of stars, creators and content through video, audio and article publications.

Late night shows have been without in person audiences since March of last year, but that is soon going to change as cities like New York begin to reopen. Late night comics, like Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon, have been some of the first to announce the return of audiences to their studios. It’s not much of a surprise that New York late night hosts are some of the first to start welcoming people back, since  Broadway recently announced  ticket sales  and Madison Square Garden opened its doors last month. 

Stephen Colbert announced last month that he would have a full, live studio audience with proof of vaccination starting this month. Jimmy Fallon announced similar plans with vaccination being required as well; his audience has been at 40% capacity since March. During his first show back, Fallon couldn’t contain his excitement. “Please give me a minute to soak up this audience. I’ve never been so excited to do a show for 15 people in my entire life. After last year, this is like performing at a sold-out Madison Square Garden.” Following the show, Fallon tweeted “We work so well together” and he thanked his audience of first responders and health care workers. 

The shift to remote filming highlighted why late night needs an audience more than ever. When the first shows came back remote, many hosts highlighted the struggle of moving a show run by many people to just a few. When a host went to commercial break, where there was once cheers and applause they are now just met with silence. Within the show, there is no interaction with the audience because how can you engage with someone you can’t see? Hosts like John Oliver normally talked to their audience, especially after hearing their reaction to a joke. 

Speaking of jokes, hosts no longer had to pause to wait for their audience to react, they moved onto the next point which made things feel rushed. Some did pause, but with no laughter, there was just a break, once again ruining the flow. With no people, there was no way for hosts to gauge which jokes landed and which needed improvement. Their audiences were also free marketing; they would tell their friends and family they sat for a taping and they might tune in to catch a glimpse of them in the audience. 

Of course, hosts tried to continue their show as usual with many retaining their bits, like Jimmy Fallon’s Thank You Notes, Colbert’s Tooning The News, and John Oliver’s mascots. For the latter. Seeing them silently standing in the white void without audience laughter was more unsettling than funny. 

Meanwhile, Oliver’s friend Colbert expressed his excitement for the return of an in-studio audience with his move back to a set in the Ed Sullivan Theatre saying, “I can’t wait to say things that are happy and then hear people cheer.” 

This move back to normal has worked for SNL by having a fully vaccinated crowd during their season finale last month, providing a blueprint many hosts are now using. Looking past why late-night needs an audience, their return is a welcome sign of things returning to normal; something we all need.

About The Author:

Alexis Crandall is an Emerson College student majoring in journalism with a minor in Public Relations. She is also an intern at AfterBuzz TV and Better Together with Maria Menounos. 

Founded by Emmy winning journalist Maria Menounos and Producer Keven Undergaro, artist-friendly AfterBuzz TV is the world’s largest digital broadcast network and pop culture news platform, producing post-game ‘after-shows’ for nearly all favorite TV shows, interviewing cast and showrunners and providing the widest video, audio and article coverage of shows, content and influencers than any entertainment news platforms in existence

“We don’t just celebrate and cover the top shows, content and stars, we celebrate and cover ALL the shows, content and stars.”

Maria Menounos

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