Yesterday, with the mega-Franken-hurri-storm-of-the-Century-cane attacking the east coast, a number of TV shows taped in New York City were cancelled. Two notable exceptions – The Late Show with David Letterman, and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon – kept their shows going, but did so without studio audiences.
The results were fascinating.
This piece from Slate has some video clips of what viewers saw – an odd attempt to hold a normal show under very unique circumstances. Obviously, the most noticeable difference was the lack of a studio audience. You could tell both Letterman and Fallon missed the laughter, applause, and other feedback they get from their audience. Fallon especially – he performs his monologue like normal, but you can see how the lack of laughter really throws off his timing and makes him uncomfortably nervous – which in turn makes for interesting TV.
As for Letterman, apparently the guy who does the graphics for the Top Ten list couldn’t make it in to work, so they went decidedly low-tech: the opening title and each of the Top 10 Rejected Names for the Storm were written in marker on poster board. Letterman’s interview with Denzel Washington (a pretty big name for such an odd show) was even more casual than the typical talk show interview.
The whole experience was unique, memorable, and slightly surreal. Watching The Roots laugh heartily at Fallon’s awkward monologue and seeing a very relaxed Denzel slouching on Dave’s couch transformed the shows from two popular late night shows to their elemental state: a random cable-access talk show with good guests and house band. In other words, it was like Wayne’s World filmed in the Ed Sullivan Theater.