NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 21, 2017: The Ed Sullivan Theater in New York City is the home of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)
Robert Alexander/Getty Images


As Late-Night TV Goes Dark, Fans Wonder If The Format Will Ever Come Back

The late-night silence is deafening.

On May 2nd, the Writers Guild of America went on strike seeking better wages, higher residual rates, and protections against the looming threat of Artificial Intelligence, among related demands.

That meant screenwriters closed their laptops, taking the jokes out of the corporate comedians’ mouths. No more wisecracks Colbert, Kimmel, Oliver, or Maher. The late-night landscape went dark, and the lights won’t be back on anytime soon.

Will audiences greet their return like a favorite show’s new seasons? Or, will we see a faltering landscape crumble, plagued by incessant partisanship, relentless clapter, and a business model in obvious decline?

The latter may be more likely, even if the format continues in some capacity when the strike finally ends.

DALLAS, TX - FEBRUARY 22: Fox News host Greg Gutfeld speaks during Fox News Channel's "Gutfeld!" Live In Dallas at Gilley's Dallas on February 22, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images)

Scott Kowalchyk/CBS via Getty Images

We’re certainly not seeing any desperate op-eds demanding the swift return of these late-night propagandists. Even the Left-leaning MovieWeb perused the late-night-free environment and wondered if the public even missed it.

Had the work stoppage lasted a few weeks or even months we’d expect the show to go on, more or less as usual. The hosts might forgo any summer vacation plans to resume their high-paying gigs and reconnect with their dwindling fan base.

Except the WGA and the studio representatives remain far apart and you’d be hard-pressed to find an industry observer who sees a resolution lurking around the corner.

The news cycle moves on without their pre-packaged monologues, leaving folks like John Oliver wishing he could weigh in on the latest Trump indictment news and, conversely, ignore stories with the name “Hunter” attached. 

No one expected a swift resolution to the writers’ strike, and that was before the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) joined them on the picket lines earlier this month. That means even if the late-night shows were open for business, they’d have no one to grace their colorful couches.

The loss of late-night comedy struck a body blow against the mainstream media. Journalists loved regurgitating whatever Stephen Colbert said on a given night, assuming it tarred and/or feathered GOP favorites like Donald Trump or former Fox News superstar Tucker Carlson.

Reporters even assembled round-up stories on the latest late-night antics, purposely leaving out the one show that’s still cranking out new episodes — that’s “Gutfeld!,” the Fox News hit that recently abandoned the late shift for an earlier, 10 p.m. EST time slot.

DALLAS, TX - FEBRUARY 22: Fox News host Greg Gutfeld speaks during Fox News Channel's "Gutfeld!" Live In Dallas at Gilley's Dallas on February 22, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images)

Omar Vega/Getty Images

Another sign of the format’s eventual doom?

Late-night TV was in trouble before the dueling strikes. The Left-leaning Axios said the format was “rapidly declining” back in April, noting the recent loss of several key players.

Low ratings likely sunk TBS mainstay “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.” Trevor Noah up and left the basement-rated “Daily Show” over at Comedy Central, leaving the cable channel to uncork a rotating host schedule without finding the South African comic’s successor.

That search, like the show itself, is presumably on hold.

“Late Late Show” star James Corden also called it quits, abandoning a format that was setting CBS back millions. The network didn’t bother to find his replacement, opting to air a game show reboot in his place.

Late-night revenues were similarly down in recent months.

Axios reported ad revenue for the top six shows shrank more than 50% since 2014, and more than 60% from its highest point in 2016 (a heated presidential campaign year).

Does that sound like a healthy TV landscape?

Audiences are fickle. They may have watched their favorite late-night comedian for years, but now they’re left to find new bedtime rituals. That could mean social media surfing or sampling the various YouTube creators cranking out provocative, timely satire.

Comedians like liberal-leaning Jimmy Dore happily tear into President Joe Biden as well as Trump. Right-leaning comics, meanwhile, eviscerate the woke mind virus, among other progressive targets.

Any random sketch by Ryan Long is as funny, if not funnier, than whatever Jimmy Fallon uncorked from his “Tonight Show” perch.

There’s no lack of creative minds filling the gaps left behind by late-night taking an extended knee. And audiences can watch them at any time of the day if they crave late-night-style yuks.

The host of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” is still talking, but he’s doing it via his weekly “Club Random” podcast. The show eschews partisan banter for conversations across the ideological divide. Here’s betting he’s having more fun talking to the likes of Jordan Peterson than pretending “Real Time” guests like Rob Reiner make sense.

Some Jimmy Kimmel scribes have hit the road, packaging themselves together as a late-night stand-up tour to make ends meet during the strike. 

Kimmel himself is keeping a low profile this summer, except when he’s the target of Twitter’s Community Notes fact-checking squad. Colbert is mostly quiet on Twitter, too. It’s almost like his comic shtick is a job and he doesn’t feel compelled to weigh in on the latest headlines if there’s no paycheck attached.

Seth Meyers’ Twitter feed is similarly subdued.

Even late-night stalwarts seemed resigned to the new reality facing them when the strike finally ends.

Christian Toto is an award-winning journalist, movie critic and editor of He previously served as associate editor with Breitbart News’ Big Hollywood. Follow him at @HollywoodInToto

The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire. 

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  As Late-Night TV Goes Dark, Fans Wonder If The Format Will Ever Come Back