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Stephen Colbert addressed the impact the recent surge in COVID-19 cases is having on late night television and declared that whatever happens on The Late Show, filming for the CBS variety talk series will remain in the Ed Sullivan Theater.
Just one day after Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon revealed his breakthrough COVID-19 diagnosis during the show’s holiday break and hours after Late Night host Seth Meyers announced that he was canceling the rest of this week’s shows following a positive test, Colbert addressed the various responses across the late night landscape to filming safely amid a national high in positive cases across the country.
“My dear friend Jimmy Kimmel is not on tonight. They pushed back a week. They’re not doing this week. Trevor [Noah], my friend Trevor, is not on for the next couple of weeks. Seth Meyers is not on tonight because my dear friend Seth has got the ‘rona. We wish him only the best,” Colbert said during Tuesday night’s Late Show episode. “Conan evidently must have a terrible case of it because I don’t know where he is.”
Colbert went on to note that “Jimmy Fallon caught it over the break” but is back on the air, and that The Late Late Show host James Corden — who temporarily went back to virtual hosting in September 2020 after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 — was also still on track to air an episode Tuesday night.
After recapping how late night at large was dealing with the case surge, Colbert went on to note that if he tests positive for COVID-19, viewers can expect him to follow a similar path as other hosts.
“So here’s the thing. I want you to know that I love doing the show,” he began. “It’s a privilege to do this show, and if I do get it, I promise you, I will not be doing my show. I will not.”
He then addressed his own feelings about a potential return to the show’s previous COVID filming setup, which saw him working with a minimal crew and out of a replica of his office four floors above the Ed Sullivan Theater stage.
“I will not be doing the show because I’m never going back into that storage closet where we did the show for 10 months,” Colbert told the audience. “I can’t do it. I got the PTSD from that little room up there.”
Instead, the Late Show host said that filming will remain in the theater as it is now, and will continue on without crewmembers and even an audience if it comes to it. “I hope you guys are all healthy, but if you guys can’t show up, I’m still going to be here,” he said. “I’m not leaving the Ed Sullivan. I will do the show with no makeup in a sweatsuit on a GoPro, but I’m never fucking going back into that room on the eighth floor again.”
Between 2020 and 2021, Colbert worked out of the replica office for months with crewmembers the show said were tested on a regular basis. The show initially went virtual in March 2020 as authorities urged people to stay home amid growing numbers of cases of the then-novel coronavirus. The Late Show returned to its current home, with a live audience, continued crew testing and a vaccine mandate for audience members in mid-June of 2021.
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