Stephen Colbert became the first late night TV host to welcome fully-vaccinated audiences back on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert last night. “I am proud to say, I am absolutely proud to say, that we are the first show back up on Broadway,” Colbert said during last night's monologue. "Suck it Lion King!"
Colbert also read a "note" sent to him from Governor Andrew Cuomo, whose office helped get them back into the theater. "He's not here tonight, but he asked me to read this note," Colbert joked. "'If you remember me for one thing this year, let it be bringing back the Late Show's audience, that's it.'"
At one point, he went into the audience to dance with them alongside people dressed up as vaccines. "Is it a good sign that you danced for four minutes and can't breathe?" he asked at the end.
And he ended the monologue on a slightly emotional note by bringing out his wife Evie, who he said had been his only audience for the last 15 months. “Audience, he’s all yours now,” she said. “Don’t forget to laugh, because he really needs it.”
It's been 460 days since Colbert shut down production of in-person shows at the start of the pandemic in March 2020. The Late Show went on to produce 213 audience-less episodes, some filmed at Colbert's homes in New Jersey and Virginia, others out of a retrofitted supply closet above the Ed Sullivan Theater. Altogether, the Ed Sullivan Theater can house over 400 people, the largest of any of the late night shows which are filmed in NYC.
Based on an interview with the NY Times, it sounds like Colbert has been itching to have live audiences back for months. Colbert told them he had something of an “emotional breakdown” last week during a taping of the small-scale version of the show. Colbert told his producer, “I think we’ve done the show the best we can in this isolated circumstance. I think the best way to do the show now is to find a way to get back in front of the audience, because it feels more honest to the national experience right now.”
Colbert started last night's episode with a song about putting his pants back on for live audiences.
His guests were Dana Carvey, who was in character as Joe Biden, and his old pal Jon Stewart. This was the first time they had seen each other in person in more than a year. "There's nothing I wanted to do more than breathe everyone's air," Stewart said. "I know we're all vaccinated, and I'm not going to get COVID, but I'm going to get something."
Stewart went on to talk about his love for—and slight fear of—scientists. Stewart also satirized the debate around the Wuhan lab leak theory, which may have gone over the heads of some conspiracy theorists.