America’s late-night guys have embarked on a path charted by many a white man before them, and the result is a late-night fan’s Avengers: Endgame.
In partnership with Spotify, five late-night show hosts — namely, Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, and John Oliver — launched Strike Force Five, a new limited series podcast that seems to be the audio version of their private group chat. All proceeds of the podcast are set to support the out-of-work staff from their respective shows: The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Late Night With Seth Meyers, and Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.
With two episodes so far, the new podcast is currently leading the US and Canada Spotify Charts and is in the Top 5 of the UK list. It also led the Apple Podcast Charts in the US.
Strike Force Five is set to run for at least twelve episodes, with each host taking turns to lead the conversation. But how did the podcast come to be, and what can listeners expect when they tune in?
How Strike Force Five Was Born
The new podcast could be traced to last spring when the Writers Guild of America (WGA) was gearing up to call a strike. With a work stoppage for the WGA’s 11,000 members looming over the horizon, the five late-night show hosts spoke regularly over Zoom to discuss how to support their staff. When the writers’ strike was officially declared on May 2, late-night shows were the first to go dark.
Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers, in particular, were vocal about their support for the WGA and worked with their network to continue supporting their employees through the strike. NBC continued paying the staff of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night with Seth Meyers through the first two weeks of the strike, while Fallon and Meyers themselves paid their crews for the strike’s third week. Healthcare was extended through to September.
But with the strike still ongoing and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) set on their first (and only) counterproposal since May, the hosts have turned to a new way to support their staff.
They reportedly met online every week since May. Naturally, hilarity ensued, and the limited series podcast was born. The hosts launched Strike Force Five on August 29, with the first episode premiering on August 30.
In the quintet’s first episode, Jimmy Kimmel shared that “there wasn’t a lot of communication” among late-night talk show hosts in the last strike, which stretched for 153 days between 2007 and 2008. “So Stephen [Colbert] suggested we get together, and we talk through our issues and whatever we’re dealing with,” he added.
Indeed, the podcast — and the hosts’ good-humored chatting — wouldn’t have been possible in the era of late-night wars in the 90s and 2000s. At the time of the last trike, the late-night line-up consisted of Kimmel, Conan O’Brien, Jay Leno, David Letterman, and Craig Ferguson.
This time around, TV’s late-night hosts seem to be on the same page on current issues — particularly about helping their staff and how much they miss their jobs. “This is like a vacation in the same way a colonoscopy is like a nap,” said Colbert. “You’re unconscious for both of them, but one of them is really what you want on a regular basis.”
The show is sponsored by co-presenters Mint Mobile and Diageo (which owns, among others, Aviation American Gin, Bulleit Frontier Whiskey, Casamigos, and Ketel One Vodka).
What Is Strike Force Five About?
At the beginning of the first episode, Kimmel asks: “What would happen if five of America’s Top 11 most-beloathed talk show hosts all talked on top of each other for an hour? You’re about to find out.”
And find out we do.
Aside from telling the story of how their weekly Zoom calls led to the podcast, the hosts talk about a wide variety of things in an effort to get the most laughs. The show’s premise, after all, relies more on the novelty of having this particular group of speakers rather than any specific topic or substance.
For instance, Kimmel spoke about the A-listers he invites to his South Fork Lodge in Idaho.
Colbert, for his part, spoke about the kind of guests he most enjoys having on his show: the ones who don’t really want to be there. “I like a guest who’s hard. Like, where they go, ‘You’re not going to enjoy this.’ I’m like, ‘I bet I will,’” he said. “I really like the challenge.”
Ryan Reynolds also makes a brief appearance in an ad for the podcast, which he co-sponsors. Reynolds is offering all the show’s staff Mint Mobile services for free for a year.
Episode 1 also reveals that Ben Affleck and Matt Damon offered to cover staff pay for Kimmel, who declined their offer. “I felt that that was not their responsibility,” he said, to which Meyers asked if the offer was “transferrable” for his staff.
Other topics covered by the late-night show hosts include their experiences as altar boys, taking children to college, and the fact that Oliver is the only host without an honorary doctorate. Colbert also shared that he has developed code names for each of his co-hosts on his phone: John Oliver is Joliver; Kimmel is Crank Yanker; Meyers is Boom Chicago; and Fallon is Steve Allen.
Is Strike Force Five Good?
In the beginning of Episode 2, the show is described as one hosted by “Five men, with identical, non-transferrable narrow skills and a ton of free time on their hands.” The intro goes on to declare the primary mission: “to funnel money to their staffs.” The secondary mission, of course, is “attention.”
Strike Force Five is worth trying out for its good intentions, and fans of one or several of its stars would definitely appreciate the candid and random stories they share.
But five men talking over each other isn’t exactly for everybody. Moreover, the show is recorded over Zoom due to the hosts’ different locations, so those particular about sound glitches might not have a great time listening. For his part, Meyers quips: “You’re really going to feel their [the staff’s] absence while we’re talking without their help.”
The hosts also take a crack at the clear lack of diversity among them. “For those who would criticize us, who would say we don’t need a show hosted by a group of four middle-aged straight white men,” Kimmel joked, “we bring you a fifth middle-aged straight white man, but this one is from England!”
Where to Listen to Strike Force Five
The podcast is hosted on Spotify’s Megaphone, with the company serving as Strike Force Five’s exclusive sales partner.