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Pete Buttigieg Hosts Audience-Free Jimmy Kimmel Live, Calls for Action on Coronavirus

"When you don't have a real audience, you have to fake one, just like Trump's inauguration"

Amanda Bell

Former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg guest-hosted Thursday's episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live, even though the show was one of several late-night programs which had pivoted to filming audience-free in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Mayor Pete addressed the elephant in the room -- or not in the room, as the case may be -- right away in his opening monologue.

"My name is Pete Buttigieg, and I am running to be the next host of Jimmy Kimmel Live. Now, this is a strange night for us, not only because it's my first time hosting a talk show, but because we are doing it without a regular studio audience," he said. Buttigieg went on to explain that the decision to suspend the show's live audience was made shortly before he took the stage, lamenting, "This was not our plan, we just decided this a few hours ago, and it's disappointing because as you all know, I love to crowd surf. It's kind of my thing."

Rounding out the studio's audience space were husband Chasten, show staffers, and a few friends, and the cameras panned across the emptied area to show that everyone was keeping the CDC-recommended distance between them. "The experts have told us the best way to prevent the spread of the virus is for us to physically stay apart, so that's what we are going to do. The only way we are going to get through this crisis is with you. So, let's do this together. Who's with me?" At that, the show then ran some stock footage of a crowd going wild, and Buttigieg joked, "When you don't have a real audience, you have to fake one, just like Trump's inauguration."

Late-Night Hosts Rip Into Donald Trump's Coronavirus Response

The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who was subbing for Jimmy Kimmel as he taped Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, also called on Congress to pass an economic relief bill that is currently in discussion on Capitol Hill. "There is a bill right now in Congress which would provide free coronavirus testing for everyone who needs it, paid emergency leave, and unemployment insurance for workers who are laid off because of the economic shock. So, for the good of every worker, every family, every community that will be hurting, we need Congress to get that done," he said, recommended that all audiences dial (202) 224-3121 to encourage their representatives and senators to move on the legislation.

And while Buttigieg's usual calm demeanor came through as he insisted that "the resolve of our nation is strong," he also ironically pointed to "living proof of that from last night's Masked Singer" while rolling tape of former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin rapping "Baby Got Back" in a rainbow bear suit. "That's gonna be me in three months, isn't it?" he quipped.

Buttigieg saved perhaps the best roast for himself as he looked back on his achievements during the presidential primaries and said, "I do hope at the very least that my presidential run has inspired some people. Right now, somewhere out there in America, there could be a young kid thinking, 'I, too, could run for president while dressed like the manager of a Carmax.'"

Jimmy Kimmel Live airs on weeknights at 11:35/10:35c on ABC.

Lou Rocco, ABC