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Letterman's show must go on -- without an audience

FOR the second night in a row, superstorm Sandy and its aftermath forced David Letterman to live out that performer's nightmare: Telling jokes to a vacant theatre -- or as he called it, "a big ol' empty barn".

Letterman hosting the Late Show to an empty Ed Sullivan Theater yesterday, as he did on Monday, was the oddest sight of the considerable and continuing cultural fallout of the hurricane that left New York institutions like Broadway, Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center no more open for business than the city's damaged subway system.

But the New York entertainment industry was fighting to go on with the show. Though The Colbert Report and The Daily Show cancelled tapings for the second day, the Late Show, Jimmy Fallon's Late Night and ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live went ahead with shows last night.

When Letterman introduced his first guest, Kate Hudson, the actress didn't stride out; instead a middle-aged bald man appeared -- presumably an employee of the Late Show --who bantered with Letterman as if he were Hudson.

Even that most unshakable performer Bruce Springsteen was hit by the storm.

His gig scheduled for last night at the Rochester Blue Cross Arena in upstate New York was postponed until tonight because of flight cancellations.