Bring back the laugh track

Comedy in the age of coronavirus is mostly defined by awkward silences

Stephen Colbert.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Getty Images, iStock)

Right now, I'm imagining your laughter.

Stephen Colbert had meant that as a joke when he addressed the comment to the camera in a mostly-empty studio, during the brief period when late night TV taped in their normal venues but without live audiences, before the quarantine ax fell completely. The comment, delivered as a sort of punchline after a skit about the closure of Broadway, earned chuckles from those within earshot: Late Show technicians, the house band, maybe even a few writers who'd strayed into the theater. But watching it again today, Colbert's delivery feels a little sharper, a little less funny, a little more desperate. Without the scattered laughter, I might not have realized it was a joke at all.

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