Several Comedy Shows Will Go Live After Presidential Debates

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Several late shows will compete for viewers by going live after a major political event Wednesday.

NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” will air live for its entirety at 11:35 p.m. following the first Democratic presidential debate Wednesday for the first time. CBS’ “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” will air at the same time. (RELATED: Writer For ‘The Late Show With Stephen Colbert’ Regrets Reveling In Brett Kavanaugh’s Suffering)

Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” and NBC’s “Late Night with Seth Meyers” will both air live for two consecutive nights following both debates on Wednesday and Thursday — “The Daily Show” at 11 p.m. and “Late Night” at 12:35 a.m. It will be the first time “The Daily Show” has gone live for two consecutive nights.

Typically, commentary following major political events does not appear on late-night comedy shows until “some 25 hours” after the events take place, The New York Times reported Wednesday.


Producers’ decisions to go live will not only create a more candid response to the first 2020 presidential debates but more competition between the shows when people across the country are tuned in to late-night TV.

“That’s the urgency that this event calls for,” Jim Bell, executive in charge of “The Tonight Show,” told The NYT. “And that is rather striking that’s where we are in 2019 compared to previous election cycles.” (RELATED: Is Ocasio-Cortez Off-Limits For Comedians?)

Head writer of “The Daily Show” Dan Amira told The NYT, “You’re competing against what people see on Twitter, 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.”

“The Late Show” went live for eight consecutive days to cover the Republican and Democratic national conventions in July 2016, which sparked high ratings for Colbert. “The Daily Show” went live after then-candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton gave their respective speeches at each party’s convention in 2016.

Ratings for the 2016 debate at Hofstra University between Clinton and Trump reached record highs with the total number of viewers surpassing 84 million. The debate also averaged a total rating of 31.2 on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC and ABC. It nearly quadrupled the 22.8 million viewers who tuned in to watch Sunday Night Football.

Fallon’s “Tonight Show” ratings fell behind Colbert’s “Late Show” for an entire season in May.

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