Upping the ante for late night shows in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Stephen Colbert and Conan O’Brien joined forces on Tuesday night for a virtual crossover episode of both The Late Show and Conan.
Colbert, 55, and O’Brien, 56, have appeared on each other’s shows a plethora of times in the last few decades, often exchanging banter in keeping with the playful rivalry between their shows. Thanks to modern technology — online video call — the veteran TV hosts were able to bounce their quick wits off of each other once again during quarantine.
Relinquishing control of the Late Show portion of the interview, O’Brien said, “Well, I’m thrilled, because my next guest… is one of my 11 favourite late night hosts. So good to have you on my show, Stephen.”
“Thank you, Conan,” replied Colbert. “Now, a lesser man would fight with you right now and say, ‘No, no, you’re on my show,’ but I’ve been a host long enough to know that the host actually does most of the work.”
“You go right ahead, buddy,” he joked. “You go ahead and host me. Ask away. All the weight’s on you now. Checkmate. You fell into my trap.”
“I see what you’re doing,” responded O’Brien. “Beautiful judo move. Beautifully done.”
With barely a moment to chime in, Colbert asked O’Brien how he was handling isolation.
“I miss the laughter. I miss the joy… that I bring others,” quipped O’Brien.
“Well, what about your show? Do you miss that?” joked Colbert in response.
O’Brien replied: “I love the family time that I’m getting, don’t get me wrong, but I really miss talking to other people. being at the office, being able to yell at people in person, belittle them in person, and I can’t do that now. I do it with sarcastic texts. It’s just not the same.”
“It doesn’t have the inflection,” Colbert said.
On what he misses about filming in-studio, the host continued: “I miss the audience because I get all of my value from their praise. I have no self-worth at all. I only exist really in reflection to them chanting my name, so it’s been rough at times.”
“That’s great that your audience chants your name,” said O’Brien. “Mine stopped doing that about four years ago. When they chant my name now it’s usually as an angry mob, so I envy you,” he joked.
Later on, Colbert said he had “a bone to pick” with O’Brien, questioning him on why he no longer wears suits on his talk show, unlike all the other late night hosts.
O’Brien said it was because his epidemiologist father gave him the “inside scoop” about the novel coronavirus more than a year in advance.
“Quoting” his father, O’Brien joked, “Trust me , there’s this thing coming and you’re going to be broadcasting from home, so you should probably switch out of the suit and tie.”
He continued: “I said, ‘Dad, shouldn’t we be spreading this information for more useful purposes,’ and he said, ‘I look after my own.’ That’s a quote… and then he hung up the phone.”
As Colbert continued to poke fun at his rival host by questioning the room he was broadcasting from, O’Brien chimed in to pick his own “bone” with his competitor.
He said: “You are using state-of-the-art equipment. I am broadcasting on… basically a phone. I tune in, I check out your show and you’re clearly — and I know my cameras — you’re on, I think, a Sony HDC-1700 4K.”
Checking the camera, Colbert confirmed. “It’s a Sony XD cam, HD. You’re right.”
“Yeah, exactly,” replied O’Brien. “You know why? Because I’ve been in this business a long time and I know my cameras.”
The bickering didn’t stop there.
“Listen, buddy. I did it your way for the first week,” said Colbert. “I literally just did everything off of an iPad, balanced on the side of a bathtub, with a bottle of bubble bath to keep it from tipping in and killing me. OK? So don’t tell me. I’ve been in it,” he added, referencing the first “at home” episode of the Late Show — which was recorded from the comfort of his bathtub last month.
Conan then raised the bar, joking, “We record my show on a flip phone. When the show is over, I put it into a cardboard tube and I put it in the U.S. mail and it goes to Turner Headquarters in Atlanta.
“That’s how we’ve been doing it,” he continued. “So don’t preach to me with your ‘story of hardships.’ You’ve got a satellite truck on your lawn. It’s been years since I’ve seen a satellite truck. I’m bitter and enraged.
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert air every weeknight on Global TV at 11:35 p.m.
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