Home / Best Living Room / Conan O’Brien, Jay Leno, late night comedy, late night television, talk show hosts, television, Tonight Show

Conan O’Brien, Jay Leno, late night comedy, late night television, talk show hosts, television, Tonight Show

Whether on a business trip or in the comfort of your own home, enjoying a few laughs is always the best way to unwind after a full day of work. These kings of late night television never fail to deliver the goods. In return, we’ve rewarded them with tens of millions of dollars, a devoted band of paparazzi, and the comfort that no publicity is bad publicity. Right Dave?

1. Conan O’Brien: ‘PERSONA NON GRATA’

Host of: Conan
Network: TBS
Timeslot: Weeknights, 11:00 p.m.
Broadcasting from: Burbank, CA
Installation & Launch: November 2010
The Sidekick(s): Announcer, Andy Richter

The Schtick: Back in 2009, Conan was selected to succeed Leno as host of ‘The Tonight Show’, which holds the leading timeslot in NBC’s late-night line-up (immediately followed by ‘Late Night’, which Conan had hosted for 16 years previous), only to be slighted by the network several months later. After a seven-month stint, he was given an ultimatum for the program’s start-time to be pushed back by a half-hour to accommodate a lead-in by NBC’s newest creation, ‘The Jay Leno Show’. Instead of conceding the show’s timeslot, Conan conceded defeat. After agreeing to a $ 45-million network release deal, he left behind. After taking himself out on a brief stand-up tour, the ousted comedian was basically left to blow in the wind, and tirelessly took to tweeting away several more months of 2010. But, at last, Conan is again back on-air, courtesy basic cable television station, TBS. He’s currently appearing in a newly self-titled talk show alongside late-night newcomer, ‘Lopez Tonight’.

2. Jay Leno: ‘AN AMERICAN INSTITUTION’

Host of: The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
Network: NBC
Timeslot: Weeknights, 11:35 p.m.
Broadcasting from: Burbank, CA 
Show Launched: 1954 (previously hosted by Steve Allen, Jack Paar & Johnny Carson)
Host Installation: 1992-2009
Host (Re)Installation: March 2010-Present
The Sidekick(s): Bandleader, Rickey Minor & ‘The Tonight Show’ Band

The Schtick: In the wake of this year’s earlier controversial coup by NBC to unseat Conan, many have questioned Leno’s seeming lack of loyalty, his integrity, ethics and even his character. Still, since Jay today is as firmly established a late-night figure as ever, it seems there’s something inherently comforting in flipping-on the TV to find an old, familiar face. Perhaps it’s time that we, the public, finally admit to ourselves that his frequent foibles and freakishly large features are actually among our favorite things about Leno—all of which come together to form the living caricature who distinctly stands out as a sign of our times. After all, nowhere will you find a more widely publicized, preposterously proportioned mandibular point of protrusion, nor stumble upon another celebrity who can successfully sport that aptly centered, skunkish grey streak as part of their signature style.

3. David Letterman: ‘THE DIRTY OLD MAN’

Host of: Late Show with David Letterman
Network: CBS
Timeslot: Weeknights, 11:35 p.m.
Broadcasting from: New York
Installation & Launch: 1993
The Sidekick(s): Bandleader, Paul Shaffer

The Schtick: Letterman originated the ‘Late Show’ for CBS (upon the retirement of Johnny Carson) after NBC failed to follow-through with his presumed promotion (as the then-host of ‘Late Night’) to host of ‘The Tonight Show’, which occupies the premiere time slot. This led us the nation to witness late-night’s now-legendary, on-air (well, off-air, too) rivalry between Letterman & Leno, which is still alive and well today.

Things seem to have worked out alright, and, all these years later, Letterman continues to intrigue America by alienating his own talk-show guests (not to mention the broader media) with his ever-increasing arsenal of indelicate, irreverent remarks. His reputation for questionable, even unethical, behaviour can only be compounded by a continued series of scandals — the latest being Letterman’s shocking (okay, maybe not so shocking) sexual misconduct committed with a member of his own staff.

4. Piers Morgan: ‘THE HEIR TO LARRY’S KINGDOM’

Host of: Piers Morgan Tonight
Network: CNN
Timeslot: Weeknights, 9:00 p.m.
Broadcasting From: New York, London, and Los Angeles
Show Launched: 1985 (formerly ‘Larry King Live’)
Host Installation: Upcoming, January 2011
The Sidekick(s): None (this is a notoriously solo act)

The Schtick: Meet the man who will soon be occupying the CNN timeslot at 9 p.m. that has been home to “Larry King Live” for the past quarter of a century. This past summer, the 76-year-old King announced that he would be stepping aside in the fall from his place on the nightly program he has hosted since 1985. While he plans to remain with the network to host its specials, the final telecast of King’s current show is scheduled to air on December 16th.

CNN later announced that British tabloid, news & TV personality, 45-year-old, Piers Morgan, would be taking up King’s primetime post beginning in January, as host of a new, “candid, in-depth newsmaker interview program,” entitled ‘Piers Morgan Tonight’. Morgan is best known to American viewers as a judge appearing on NBC’s ‘America’s Got Talent’ and as reality-show winner of ‘The Celebrity Apprentice’. According to CNN, Morgan will be based in New York, but also will work from Los Angeles and London. The new show will air live on CNN-US at 9 p.m. ET, as well as worldwide on CNN-International in more than 200 countries.

Morgan himself likened any attempt at filling the shoes of the great Larry King upon his retirement to trying to replace Frank Sinatra’s Las Vegas show. “I have watched ‘Larry King Live’ for much of the last 25 years, and dreamed of one day filling the legendary suspenders of the man [whom] I consider to be the greatest TV interviewer of them all,” Morgan said. He also declared that King is his own first-choice to receive an invitation to join in the new show’s initial airing as the subject of its first guest interview.

5. Jon Stewart: ‘WEARING OFF THE MEDIA SHINE’

Host of: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Network: Comedy Central
Timeslot: Mon – Thurs, 11:00 p.m.
Broadcasting from: New York
Show Launched: 1996
Host Installation: 1999
The Sidekick(s): A team of several supporting cast members, serving as ‘news correspondents’

The Schtick: Self-described as a ‘fake news’ program, ‘The Daily Show’ debuted in 1996, hosted by Craig Kilborn before Jon Stewart was installed as anchor three years down the road. Since then, ‘The Daily Show’ has evolved into the sharpest, most incisive satire of politics and the media on television.

Just as the show proudly proclaims, it’s even better than being informed. Or as the website says, “Watch Jon Stewart and the best F#@king News Team Ever!”

6. Stephen Colbert: ‘SUPREME SATIRE WITH A STRAIGHT FACE’

Host of: The Colbert Report
Network: Comedy Central
Timeslot: Mon – Thurs, 11:30 p.m.
Broadcasting from: New York
Installation & Launch: 2005
The Sidekick(s): (At times, his own alter-ego)
Prior Occupation: The show was created as a spin-off from Stewart’s The Daily Show, where Stephen was featured as a routine correspondent who reported from an absurdly conservative perspective.

The Shtick: The Report presents a farcical first-look at current events from an extreme conservative -biased viewpoint. His radically Right-wing character is suspicious of all things tending towards liberal, with near-zero-level tolerance (frequently resulting in complete denial) for viewpoints varying from his own, who’s sporting a blatantly overblown sense of moral correctness and inherent self-supremacy. His is the quintessential American stereotype, adopting an unapologetically self-serving, U.S.-centric attitude that translates to the audience as absolutely hilarious.

LATE NIGHT’S UP-AND-COMERS:

Jimmy Fallon: ‘THE FRESH-FACED YOUTH’

Host of: Late Night with Jimmy Fallon
Network: NBC
Timeslot: Weeknights, 12:35 a.m.
Broadcasting From: New York
Show Launched: 1982
Host Installation: 2009
The Sidekick(s): Hip-Hop House Band, ‘The Roots’

The Schtick: A late-night legacy left to Fallon by prior hosts Conan O’Brien and David Letterman, ‘Late Night’ immediately follows ‘The Tonight Show’ in the NBC line-up. An already-established member of the NBC-network family, Fallon started his career with a six-year stint on SNL, which was followed by a brief foray into feature films.

Craig Ferguson: ‘THE SMART-ASS SCOTSMAN’

Host of: The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson
Network: CBS
Timeslot: Weeknights, 12:35 a.m.
Broadcasting from: New York
Show Launched: 1995
Host Installation: 2005
The Sidekick(s): Recently-gifted skeleton robot, Geoff Petersen

The Schtick: This show is a creation of David Letterman, now in its third incarnation. Notoriously low-budgeted, Ferguson often turns the subject of his program’s financial disadvantage into the butt of its own jokes.

Jimmy Kimmel: ‘THE ALL-AROUND AVERAGE GUY’

Host of: Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Network: ABC
Timeslot: 12:05 a.m.
Broadcasting from: Hollywood, CA
Installation & Launch: 2005
The Sidekick(s): Bandleader, Cleto

The Schtick: Jimmy rose to fame as the co-host of ‘The Man Show’ with his pal, Adam Carolla, and as the Emmy Award winning co-host of the long-running game show, ‘Win Ben Stein’s Money’. He also co-created and executive-produced the hit MTV2 series, ‘The Andy Milonakis Show’, and Comedy Central’s ‘Crank Yankers’.

George Lopez: ‘SPICING UP LATE NIGHT’

Host of: Lopez Tonight
Network: TBS
Timeslot: Weeknights, 12:00 a.m.
Broadcasting from: Burbank, CA
Installation & Launch: November 2010
The Sidekick(s): (TBD)

The Schtick: George Lopez’ popularity with the public recently led TBS to launch his new, late-night talk show. Now, with side-by-side programs, the network is looking to link Lopez and Conan O’Brien as its newest partners-in-crime to grow the two comedy empires together.

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