Stephen Colbert on 2022: ‘An unprecedented third year of 2020’

Stephen Colbert returned to his first Late Show of 2022 – “an unprecedented third straight year of 2020” – with an update on Covid’s Omicron variant, which surged across the US over the holidays.

In the past week, the US logged more than 400,000 new cases of Covid each day, tripling from two weeks ago. “That is awful – the only thing that should be tripling over the holidays is my BMI,” he joked.

The Omicron surge wreaked havoc on holiday travel – airlines cancelled more than 12,000 flights between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day, and New York City suspended several subway lines due to staffing issues. “What? Closing the subway because of the germs is like closing Broadway because of jazz hands,” Colbert observed.

Partly in response to widespread staffing shortages, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week cut the isolation time for Americans who test positive from 10 days to five. “They also say you can swim right after you eat, breaking a mirror only gives you four years bad luck, and stepping on a crack won’t break your mother’s back, but her back will just be very disappointed,” Colbert quipped.

Some have raised suspicions about the timing of the policy change, as just days before the announcement, the CEO of Delta Air Lines asked the CDC for a five-day isolation guidance. “Well, that’s just longstanding policy: if your business is named after a variant, you get to make one rule,” Colbert joked.

On the Late Show, Seth Meyers celebrated Twitter’s permanent suspension of Georgia representative Marjorie Taylor Greene’s personal account for repeatedly posting Covid misinformation.

Greene, a rightwing extremist and conspiracy theorist, had tweeted recently that vaccines were “failing and the Democrats are tyrants … The entire effort should be focused on life saving treatments and returning life to normal … Wide open. No masks. No mandates. No discrimination.”

“We all want to get back to normal!” Meyers exclaimed. “You’re the ones who want to live with this endless cycle of misery and death and just let a highly contagious respiratory virus ravage the country. That’s not normal. The rest of us just want to slow the spread of Covid and get back to something that’s actually normal.

“Regardless of how you feel about the ethics of kicking politicians off Twitter, it’s just a huge quality of life improvement, like when Trump got kicked off Twitter,” Meyers added. “Trying to live in a world where people like Trump and Greene are constantly screaming insane shit on Twitter is like trying to have a conversation with a friend on the street next to a jackhammer.”

And on the Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon also rang in the new year with a sense of pandemic dread. “I like having new year’s resolutions because you can just make them up as you go, sort of like the CDC rules on Covid,” he joked.

The host also remarked on the blizzard which hit Washington DC on Monday, stranding Joe Biden on Air Force One when the runway’s mobile staircase got trapped in snow. “The last time DC was hit with that much whiteness it was January 6,” said Fallon. “Seriously, there hasn’t been that much white powder since Jeff Bezos’s new year’s party.”

Fallon then returned to the CDC’s recommendation change for Covid isolation from 10 days to five days. “A lot of Covid regulations keep changing the longer the pandemic goes on,” he said. “For example, back then, doctors said to cough directly into your elbow. Now doctors say ‘just have fun out there’.

“Also back then, you had to wash your hands for as long as it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice,” he joked. “But now you can sing it at the speed Applebee’s employees do when you can tell they’re not really into it.”

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