Stephen Colbert appeared on behalf of his CBS late-night show during Deadline’s Contenders Television all-day awards-season event and admitted he was eager to get back to having an audience for his hit series, which has been essentially shooting from a storage closet at the Ed Sullivan Theatre in New York.
“It’s literally an old storage room. It’s a little storage room that we serendipitously five years ago wired to the control room, which itself is hardwired under the streets of Manhattan to the broadcast center in case we ever wanted another sort of performance space,” Colbert told me during his portion of CBS Studios’ Contenders presentation. “So, we lucked out, but that being said, like any cable access studio is a more welcoming environment than that room I’m in right now. It’s like [a] super-low drop ceiling. It’s me and two other guys. The cameras are all robotic.”
Contenders Television: Livestream, Schedule, Lineup
How long will it be before an audience returns to the show that has been affected, like so many others, by the Covid-19 pandemic?
“This is how I describe it,” Colbert said. “I have in my head a tank of memory of what it’s like to do the show in front of an audience, and there’s another tank which is what it’s like to work with my staff, and the two best reasons to do a late-night show is because, to be able to work with a great staff, and to do it in front of a live audience because you know if the show’s working because the audience makes this noise with their mouth, and you go ‘Oh hey, that worked.’
“It’s all theory,” he added. “It’s been a year and two months of complete theory, and the tank is completely empty. I have no perspective anymore. I can kind of figure out what played and what didn’t play for a year. Now, I’m just desperate to get back into the space. I miss the audience.”
Check back Monday for the panel video.