Jimmy Fallon joins fellow late-night hosts Trevor Noah, Seth Meyers, and Stephen Colbert going live after the Democrats’ first round of debates this week.
The Tonight Show will go live for its entire run time after a political event for the first time in the show’s history. The Daily Show will do the same, two nights in a row. Fallon will face off against Colbert’s Late Show for an hour of live broadcasting on their respective networks, while Seth Meyers will be live both nights.
It’s a packed schedule, with nighttime television hosts determined to ride the growing 2020 election momentum up the ratings charts. Jim Bell, who runs The Tonight Show, framed it more like duty than marketing. “That’s the urgency that this event calls for,” said Bell, “and that is rather striking that’s where we are in 2019 compared to previous election cycles.”
Dan Amira, head writer of The Daily Show, was a little more pragmatic about the purpose of the exercise. “You’re competing against what people see on Twitter,” he said, “and if you’re talking about something on the show that happened from the day before, it almost feels like ancient history at that point.”
About 17 months from Election Day, producers are expecting this to become the new normal. “I imagine we’ll go live for many, many more events in the next year,” said Daily Show Executive Producer Jen Flanz. But Colbert’s Late Show was arguably the one to start the wave. It ruled the ratings and pulled a lot of new eyes during two weeks of live coverage during the Democrat and Republican National Conventions.
“It was actually really simple,” Executive Producer Chris Licht said. “If our mission is to talk about what everyone’s talking about and the main thing that people will be talking about is happening after you normally tape, you should do it live.”
But Fallon, for one, will be back in his wheelhouse by Thursday. “We have Nicki Minaj booked for Thursday,” Bell said. “I can think of no better debate palate cleanser.”