Jon Stewart Pushed The Controversial ‘Lab Leak’ Theory To A Skeptical Stephen Colbert On ‘The Late Show’

The Late Show host Stephen Colbert invited an old friend his first in-studio taping with a live (and very lively) audience since before the pandemic.

Jon Stewart was the guest on Monday’s episode of the late-night show, and he was “so really happy” to see Colbert in person again. “I know we’re all vaccinated and I’m not going to get COVID, but I’m going to get something. These people did not take good care of themselves during the pandemic,” Stewart joked, pointing at the audience.

The former-Daily Show host then got into the scientific response to COVID-19. “So, I will say this — and I honestly mean this — I think we owe a great debt of gratitude to science,” he said. “Science has, in many ways, helped ease the suffering of this pandemic, which was more than likely caused by science.” This comment caught Colbert off guard. “Do you mean perhaps there’s a chance that this was created in a lab?” he asked, referring to the so-called “lab leak” theory that the virus may have escaped, “accidentally or otherwise,” from a laboratory in Wuhan, China. The theory was initially pushed by right-wing kooks like Donald Trump, but it’s “suddenly become credible,” as the Washington Post wrote. There’s still no direct evidence, but Stewart is a believer.

“A chance?” Stewart replied to Colbert. “Oh my god, there’s a novel respiratory coronavirus overtaking Wuhan, China, what do we do? Oh, you know who we could ask? The Wuhan novel respiratory coronavirus lab. The disease is the same name as the lab. That’s just a little too weird!” He compared the virus spreading to “an outbreak of chocolatey goodness near Hershey, Pennsylvania. What do you think happened? Oh, I don’t know, maybe a steam shovel made it with a cocoa bean. Or it’s the f*cking chocolate factory!” Stewart and Colbert have known each other long enough that their chat didn’t turn into a Crossfire situation, but it did get heated between the two, with Colbert responding to his former-boss’ claims with skepticism. Stewart was persistent, however.

“This is not a conspiracy!” he said. “But this is the problem with science. Science is incredible, but they don’t know when to stop and no one in the room with those cats ever goes, ‘I don’t know if we should do that.’ They’re like, ‘Curiosity killed the cat, so let’s kill 10,000 cats to find out why.’” After Colbert joked that “we stopped filming a long time ago,” Stewart stood up, looked into the camera, and said, “I have been alone so long. And when I realized that the laboratory was having the same name — first name and last name — of the evil that had been plaguing us, I thought to myself, that’s f*cked up.”

You can watch the clip above.