Late night was back in full force on Monday night, and the hosts of “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and “Late Night With Seth Meyers” were all expected to have something to say about it in their opening monologues.
“It feels good to be back,” Colbert said at the start of his Oct. 2 monologue — his first since May 1, the last evening before the WGA strike commenced the following day. “It feels good to be with all of you again here in the Ed Sullivan Theatre. Because after the first few months of the strike, [Colbert’s wife] Evie refused to keep chanting my name. But now the writers’ strike is over, with a new contract that includes protections from A.I., cost of living increases, better pay for streaming. Plus, thanks to the picket lines, my writers got fresh air and sunshine — and they do not care for that. Not they’re back safely in their joke holes, doing what they do best: Making my prompter word screen full of good and ha-ha!
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“It’s been a long time since our last ‘Late Show.’ We looked at the calendar today, and check my math on this, I believe we have been off the air for 154 indictments,” he additionally quipped. “It was a crazy summer to be off. Packed with events. Obviously it would be stupid to recap everything that happened over the last five months. So here we go.”
— The Late Show (@colbertlateshow) October 3, 2023
And here is how Colbert opened Monday’s show:
— The Late Show (@colbertlateshow) October 3, 2023
On “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” the host opened the show by reintroducing himself: “In case you’ve forgotten my name is Jimmy. I have been off the air for five months. We’ve been gone so long, ‘The Bachelor’ is now a grandfather.
“We missed so much good stuff. Donald Trump got arrested four times while we were on strike: Once for the classified documents, once for interfering with the election, once for Jan 6th, and once for shooting Tupac. Allegedly. You know what the weirdest thing about being off the air is? When I walk into a room, nobody claps. I walk into Costco. I get nothing.
“I just want to take a moment to thank our crew – and all the union crews – for supporting our writers. IATSE, the teamsters union – all refused to cross our picket lines – and we owe them for that. Thanks largely to them, it was a big win for the little guy… and a big win for the chubby guy… and the hairy dude, and for the weird girl who doesn’t make eye contact, and for the two potheads in Star Wars t-shirts that are too small for their bodies. And the guy who’s too old to have a ponytail, and the lady whose cats each have their own Instagram page. We call them writers and they are all back to work. And we hope that the actors – and the autoworkers – and the health care workers – all get the contracts they deserve too.”
On “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” one of The Roots yelled during the opening theme song, “Wait…we’re back?”
“Five months off and we are back,” Fallon said to open his monologue. “I am so excited to be here. I am more excited than a guy seeing ‘Beetlejuice’ with Lauren Boebert. More excited than a Jets fan during the first three plays of the season. Even my dad called and said he’s so excited to watch Kimmel.”
Speaking directly about the strike, he quipped, “Glad the writers got the fair deal that they deserve. You’ve got to hand it to them: Only writers would spend all summer trying to get back to the office.”
From there, Fallon settled into his normal monologue rhythm, skewering current events with Taylor Swift, Trump and “Bachelor” jokes.
NBC shared a video clip of Fallon’s return today to host the show:
— The Tonight Show (@FallonTonight) October 3, 2023
Meanwhile, on “Late Night With Seth Meyers,” the host thanked a wide variety of people for their support and patience during the strike: “I wanted to take a moment to say how grateful I am to be back here with you tonight. I never take this show for granted, but being away from it for as long as I was away from it really hits home how much I love having this as a workplace. I would like to thank some people: I would like to thank the WGA negotiating committee, the guild leadership for all the time they put in. All the personal time they sacrificed to be in the room and negotiating for the very fair deal that all the writers deserved. I have friends on the negotiating committee, friends like Mike Schur, friends like Kay Cannon. Not just talented writers, but people who sacrificed their time to work for all writers. And I would call them a lot during it, and I’m sure a lot of their friends called them during the negotiations and said things to them like, ‘Sooooooo….? Any news?’ So I apologize to them for that but thank you for everything you did.
“I am so happy to be back in a room with my writers. I missed my writers so much. I was so happy to see them this morning. I will admit by lunch I was a little over it. They’re really talented, they just have a ton of opinions… I’d also like to thank my fellow late night hosts. It was great to have them. We talked a lot during the strike. Being on the same page with them made a hard period much easier to deal with. Thanks to Jimmy Kimmel, who suggested we do a podcast called ‘Strike Force Five.’
“I’ve been working at NBC for 22 years now, I have a great relationship with the people who run this place. And even though we were on opposite sides during this strike, I want to thank them. They made some compassionate choices about the people who work at this show and at this network, and it did not go unnoticed. I’d like to thank my family, I know it was not easy to have me around for five months. I’ll never forget the day this summer where my 7-year-old came up to me and said, ‘Not only do I not care what Rudy Giuliani did today, I’m not going to care what he does tomorrow.’ And while I hear that, I do feel like he’s missing out.
“I’d like to thank the audience here, the audience at home… And I’d like to thank our crew, the people who work on the show who are not the writing staff, for their patience while we worked through this very necessary labor stoppage to get the gains that the Writers Guild fought so hard for. I am so happy to be back with our crew. We are more than just a group of people who work together here. To quote Vin Diesel in the ‘Fast 5’ movies, ‘Look out!’ What I’m getting at is this is a family.”
— Late Night with Seth Meyers (@LateNightSeth) October 3, 2023
Returning guests on Monday included Matthew McConaughey and John Mayer on “Tonight Show”; Arnold Schwarzenegger and musical guest Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit on “Jimmy Kimmel Live”; and Neil deGrasse Tyson with a musical performance by bandleader Louis Cato on “The Late Show.” Over on “Late Night,” Meyers is spending an hour without guests, and instead conducting a mega edition of his signature “A Closer Look” segment.
Colbert, Fallon, Kimmel and Meyers join HBO’s late night returnees “Real Time with Bill Maher,” which was back on Friday, and “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver,” which returned on Sunday. (Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” with an as-yet unannounced guest host, is back on October 16.)
On “Real Time,” Maher made brief reference to the disruption in TV over the past five months. He thanked “my brilliant staff writers and non-writers who scrambled the jets to get us in two days.” And he extended thanks “to the union folks who expedited the paperwork” to allow talk shows and late-night shows to return to production on Sept. 27, two days after the WGA finally clinched a tentative three-year contract agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
And on “Last Week Tonight,” Oliver praised the “sacrifices” of all those who worked towards the WGA‘s new deal with Hollywood’s studios, but he had some choice words for those studios as well: “While I’m happy that [the WGA] eventually got a fair deal and immensely proud of what our union accomplished, I’m also furious that it took the studios 148 days to achieve a deal that they could have offered on day f—ing one,” he said. “Hopefully, this might encourage others, from auto workers to Starbucks baristas to healthcare providers, whether they are in unions or would like to be, to find power in each other. And within our particular industry.”
(William Earl and Joe Otterson contributed to this report.)
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