What Late Night Looks Like in a Hurricane

Slate's Culture Blog
Oct. 30 2012 12:45 PM

What Late Night Looks Like in a Hurricane

Jimmy Fallon begins his show outside as Hurricane Sandy approaches.

Still from YouTube.

Even as a historic storm bore down on the East Coast last night, the late show would go on—without a studio audience.

Forrest Wickman Forrest Wickman

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer. 

That was the eerie absence felt on the Late Show with David Letterman and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon last night. While Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Jimmy Kimmel—scheduled to tape in his hometown of Brooklyn, rather than his usual L.A.—cancelled their shows, Fallon and Letterman emerged to empty studios, with no fans to respond to the “Applause” sign, and no one except their own house bands and staffs to provide a laugh track.


Letterman kicked the night off by going over his would-be monologue from his desk. “Well, so much for the drought” was set to be his opener.

It’s a little discomfiting to hear so many punch lines greeted with near silence, but that doesn’t mean the late night hosts didn’t do their best. Here Letterman delivers his  “Top Ten Rejected Names for the Frankenstorm,” in analog form.

Fallon, who has quickly become a New York institution, began his broadcast right from the streets before the hurricane arrived (the show was taped in the afternoon, before the worst of the storm hit):

And he did well by focusing most of his jokes on the awkwardness of playing to empty seats. Or mostly empty, anyway: Here he banters with his one remaining audience member, “Mets Bucket Hat Guy.”

Meanwhile, perhaps the entertainer to play best to the mood of the evening was Interpol’s Paul Banks—jokingly introduced by Letterman as “the lead singer of Dangling Crane”—who took the stage of the Late Show to play the doleful, uneasy tune “Young Again”:


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