This week marks the end of an era for science and technology on late night. With Jon Stewart’s last edition of The Daily Show on Thursday, we will see the departure of the last late night host that gave any serious attention to science and technology in his guest bookings or in the other material on the show. Unfortunately, we may not see any science and technology material on this week’s episodes, as the guests that have been announced do not qualify. As for the last episode – which will run long – I’d be disappointed not to see at least Neil deGrasse Tyson make an appearance. However, I have no details on who will make an appearance.
For those keeping score, eight months ago we had four hosts – Stewart, Colbert, Ferguson and Letterman – that gave more than a glance at science and/or technology material in their programs. Next week we will have none. Of the two replacements who have started in the last eight months – only Larry Wilmore has given some attention to science and technology issues on The Nightly Show.
But that should improve come September. The question is how much. Stephen Colbert will start hosting The Late Show on September 8. Based on his bookings for The Colbert Report, and his online-only video with Neil deGrasse Tyson during the summer, I would expect his edition of The Late Show to at least have as much science and technology content as his predecessor did. I’m crossing my fingers that Colbert and his staff will go as whole hog on the subject as they did on the Report.
I’m still optimistic, but less certain, about how The Daily Show will handle these topics once Trevor Noah becomes host on September 28. This is strictly from the absence of indicators from Noah in his stand-up, or more importantly, in his segments to date on The Daily Show. I think he’s capable, I just have no idea how interested he is in doing so. To be fair, Stewart was not always interested either. But Noah is retaining, at least for the first few months, the staff and other on-air talent from the show.
Meanwhile, there are guests of note this week. As I suggested, there might be a Neil deGrasse Tyson sighting on Thursday’s edition of The Daily Show. In repeat land, you can see Lizzy Caplan, who plays sex researcher Virginia Johnson on Masters of Sex, on with Jimmy Kimmel. Her appearance from June will run again Thursday night.
Tonight (Monday) on Conan, host of Race to Escape Jimmy Pardo will be a guest. The show recently premiered on the Science Channel in the U.S., and is a competition show between teams seeking to solve puzzles in a locked room. Pardo comments on the action, sometimes discussing the psychological phenomena that emerge during the competition. Pardo also warmed up the crowd on Conan and The Tonight Show so the interview may just be 6 minutes of silliness.
I’ll end with what might be the last bit of Jon Stewart-era Daily Show discussion of science and technology. During his interview with historian Doris Kearns Goodwin on July 29, they had a conversation about how the use of e-mail and electronic technology might affect history. Goodwin made the point that this is not the first time that a change in technology has affected the historical record.