TV late night hosts, returning to the air Monday for their first broadcasts since a gunman killed 20 first graders and six adults at an elementary school in Newton, Conn., grappled in their own way with the segue in their opening moments.
“I want the people in Connecticut to know we do not take what you’re going through lightly and we’re all thinking about you here a lot, all of us, even though we’re at a talk show,” ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel said, choking up.
“My job is to give you a little break from being sad and I will try my best to do that,” he told his studio audience, and viewers at home.
On CBS, late night statesman Dave Letterman, who recently received a Kennedy Center Honor for career achievement, spoke passionately on the subject for nearly seven minutes— an eternity on broadcast TV. Delivering the kind of commentary viewers once got at the end of network evening newscasts, Letterman referenced pages of research someone had prepared for him:
“Since 1994 there have been 70 episodes of school shootings — and we don’t have them all here, and we limited it to schools… I would have thought one a year would be too many,” he said.
NBC late night hosts gave the subject a pass on in Monday monologues, but that network had already confronted the difficult transition, opening “Saturday Night Live” last weekend with a children’s choir singing “Silent Night” in lieu of the show’s trademark comedic cold opener.
TBS’s Conan O’Brien touched on the “insanely mindless tragedy” for only the briefest of moments, before telling viewers he would skip the traditional opening monologue, which he called “the news part of the show,” and instead “do silly and pointless comedy” because, he said, “when you think about it, that’s all I’m really good at.” Then he brought out one of his trademark holiday characters, Minty the Candy Cane Who Briefly Fell on the Ground.
Meanwhile, Comedy Central late night shows were in repeats.
You can watch here, starting with Kimmel:
Here’s “SNL’s” video of “Silent Night”: