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Coronavirus turned Quibi’s plans to round up ‘Last Night’s Late Night’ upside down

Heather Gardner, host of "Last Night's Late Night" on Quibi.
(Quibi)

As the hallowed hallways’ echoes on “Late Night with Seth Meyers” and John Oliver’s awkward pauses for applause during “Last Week Tonight” have taught us, it’s bizarre enough to be making a comedic late-night TV show during a pandemic. Now imagine launching a new show about these shows.

And yet, one of the programs scheduled for the launch of mobile video platform Quibi on April 6 is Entertainment Weekly’s “Last Night’s Late Night.” Hosted by journalist Heather Gardner, the show aims to save us all some time during our morning coffee-and-news scan by cherry picking the best moments from all of the late-night shows. Airing Monday to Friday mornings — with Mondays serving as a recap for weekend shows like Oliver’s and Bill Maher’s HBO shows and NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” — each episode will feature one stand-out moment likely to be trending on social media.

From Jimmy Fallon to John Oliver, late-night TV hosts have taken to YouTube during the coronavirus outbreak — and the results are oddly comforting.

“This has been a challenging time,” Gardner admits. “But it’s also been an interesting time too, because now we get to see different versions of the tried-and-true formats, like hosts putting out content on their Twitter and their Instagram [and] YouTube.”

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Gardner has had to make some adjustments herself. She’s filming from home instead of on her fancy new set and doesn’t have all her team in place; her executive producer even had to do a last-minute hire of her husband, audio engineer Loren Gardner, to help facilitate things. But she hopes the fact that most everyone is also stuck at home means “people have time; people can get to know us” because now it’s “just me talking to the fans in my living room. And honestly, there’s a really great personal aspect of that that I love.”

She also thinks this time has given her, and us, a new perspective on late-night hosts in general, saying “I have such a newfound appreciation for Jimmy Fallon and his family; they are adorable” after the host of NBC’s “Tonight Show” brought his wife on to share how they met. She also compliments James Corden of CBS’s “The Late Late Show” for pulling off “the world’s most talented variety show” with his #HomeFest videos featuring celebrity guests chiming in from their dwellings.

Late-night has become increasingly political since the 2016 election. How will Gardner tackle these often-nuanced topics when the whole point of Quibi is that she has only a handful of minutes to nail her points? She says she plans to rely on her own background because “throughout my career, [I have covered the] kind of the intersection — the blurred lines — of entertainment crossing over to politics.”

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She also knows that some late-night comedians haven’t yet developed a thick skin, as evidenced by writer Jack Allison’s recent documentation of “SNL’s” Michael Che’s extreme interest in him and other critics. “I don’t think anything can prepare you for an onslaught of Twitter attacks,” Gardner says, and she knows there’s inevitably going to be some online trolling. But she’s excited because “I’m going to get to talk about comedians with people who also do love this show.”

Still, how deep will her cuts go? Will Gardner be willing to bite the hand that feeds her and make jokes about how ridiculous the name “Quibi” sounds? Turns out someone on her beat already has that covered: “Stephen Colbert [recently] had a little Quibi joke, except he called it ‘kwee-bee.”


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