Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Late Show's post-pandemic educational film teaches how to interact with humans again

Brian Stack
Brian Stack
Screenshot: The Late Show

On Wednesday’s Late Show, Stephen Colbert, perhaps tempting the fates, noted that we are all poised on the trembling brink of re-entering human society. With vaccinations readily (some might say too-readily) available, and with the benefits of (most of) us taking sensible safety precautions finally paying off with the queasy spectacle of the world gradually opening up for human habitation and congress once more, Colbert gingerly suggested that “the tide is turning.” And, sure, maybe Colbert’s first foray to see his friend and bandleader Jon Batiste in person for the first time in more than a year was hurriedly aborted when the beloved Colbert family pet, Benny, suffered sudden anaphylactic shock en route and had to be rushed to an emergency vet for a life-saving injection. But that is not—repeat not—an omen foretelling the fate of all those daring to imagine that that elusive thing called “normal life” is within their grasp. (Benny the dog is fine.)

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Still, as Colbert explained before throwing to a targeted Late Show public service announcement, there’s going to be some natural trepidation about, you know, talking to other sentient human beings in person. (Where you can see their whole bodies and faces and everything.) With Late Show (and former Late Night With Conan O’Brien) all-star contributor Brian Stack essaying the role of one of those black-and-white, horn-rimmed, sweater vest-sporting professorial types that Mystery Science Theater 3000 so enjoys mocking in pre-movie shorts, the film reassured viewers that it’s no shame to be anxious at the prospect of your first, post-covid cocktail gathering.

With his handy chalkboard pointer and clipped, singsong cadence singling out some post-pandemic party do’s and don’ts, the professor helpfully suggested bringing a hearty, natural greeting—along with a couple of refreshing sixers to perhaps ease everyone into the spirit. Less desirable are things like forgetting how to talk to a human (in-person communications rarely freeze and glitch out), talking to your fellow partygoers like the pet who’s been your only companion (no belly rubs, people), and refraining from completely losing it when you see the bottom half of someone’s face for the first time. (Shrieking, “God, what is that hole under your nose? It’s like a big, wet eyelid!” lands firmly in the “don’t” column.) As for the staid professor’s advice about trying to cram a year’s worth of partying into a single evening and screaming out, “I’ll [expletive bleeped] anything that moves!,” well, that’s up to the individual, but is generally frowned upon at most polite, post-vaccination events.

And, most importantly, Stack’s instructor reminded us to just relax and be ourselves out there—and not to obsess over whether you are actually being yourself or are just approximating what you imagine your pre-pandemic self to have been, your words tumbling out in a sweaty, cacophonous tumble of nonsense as you twitch yourself inside out attempting to act casual before fleeing, screaming, into the night and back to the safety of your couch and the numbing glow of solitary streaming TV. It’s all going to be fine.

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.