With Letterman ending his run tonight, I was feeling a little nostalgic. Letterman has become an institution, ranking up there with the best of the best. His Top Ten Lists and Stupid Human and/or Pet Tricks will live on forever and he will always be one of the legends. He shares this spot with several other talk show hosts whom I feel are really the best late night has and is continuing to offer. The Wrap recently posted an article of the best 14 Late Night Talk Show Hosts based on popularity:
This is super scientific with Q Scores and all sorts of things. I am also going to be very scientific and base this on the data I gathered from myself and I do consider myself quite scientific as I have an extensive background in looking up medical symptoms on Web MD. So many ways to die….
Anyway back to not being creepy and in honor of Letterman, here is my Top Ten List for the best of the best (yes, I did combine a couple of them into one…..but I wrote it so I get to do that).
10. Graham Norton Show/James Corden
I am combining these two because in some ways James Corden’s show is the American counterpart to Graham Norton’s British version. I love the idea of having guests coming out at once and just start talking. Neither show feels like it’s a typical interview. It feels like a group of friends getting together and messing around with each other, making each other laugh. Of course, both Corden and Norton are the hosts and do direct the questioning a bit but guests are more than welcome to ask each other questions. In a lot of talk shows, when the second guest comes out, the first guest sometimes just sits there with nothing to do while the host and the guest talk. In the style of Norton and Corden, it’s not the case and I hope more shows follow suit.
9. Andy Cohen–Watch What Happens Live
It’s completely unscripted, there are drinking games, guests talk about the most bizarre things and the games are corny (on purpose), and I cannot stop watching. I admit that I have not watched all the Real Housewives shows, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s really like watching people just hang out and crack jokes with each other. My absolute favorite segment on his show is, “plead the fifth” where Andy asks very personal questions and the celebrity has the option to plead the fifth to one of them and when they don’t, it’s fun. People will say anything when there is alcohol involved. I also truly applauded his recent rant towards people who use the phrase, “my gays”. It really is offensive and he made many excellent points. We should never refer to anyone with a qualifier like that. It sounds incredibly demeaning. I’m Jewish and if someone referred to me as “their Jew”, yeah, I’d be pretty offended.
Sometimes his manic-ness can be a little much. His ability to turn every interview back to himself is quite impressive but his humor seems to be a perfect fit for TBS and the ability to turn conversations back onto themselves seems to be a quality held by a lot of late night talk show hosts. The Insult Dog was the best and I love when he and Andy banter and play off each other. It’s very reminiscent of Ed McMahon and Johnny Carson. You felt bad for the guy when he was dumped from NBC and you have to give him credit for building himself back up and his farewell to NBC after being let go from the Tonight Show was no doubt one of the more touching moments in television.
7. Jay Leno
While I do think there were shady behind the scenes shenanigans regarding what happened between him and Conan and also how he landed the Tonight Show gig in the first place and I’m not sure we will ever know the truth. Did he steal the show back from Conan? Did he really hide in a closet during a meeting regarding who should take over the Tonight Show? Regardless of what may or may not have happened, this is still the guy who brilliantly asked Hugh Grant what the hell he was thinking and he had the Dancing Itos. He did his job and he did it well. Monday Headlines were always funny and he came across as humbled and kind. I saw him once perform at the Ice House in Pasadena and he was amazing. His jokes were a little more raunchy than the ones on television but not by much, giving the impression that what you saw what was you got.
6. Jon Stewart
I find him so insightful, funny, intelligent and he always has a lot to say. He gives a different way of looking at politics and the world and does it with a sense of humor. His best moments always came when he was ripping into the news media and exposing media bias. Yes, there were times when he may have landed in hot water for some his comments, I know people who are still complaining about his comments about Israel, but that’s the brilliance of Jon Stewart. He exposes the truth through comedy and my theory is that if it sparks anger than maybe he’s exposing a hidden truth, maybe he’s doing his job…..well. I also loved his recent rant on Passover versus Easter. It’s so true. I want a chocolate bunny on the Sedar plate. Can’t we have that represent spring? And it’s so much more fun to look for eggs filled with candy than crackers that taste like cardboard….at least we have Hanukkah, eight days of gifts! His last show will be on August 6th and I will be watching.
5. Stephen Colbert
I always consider him Jon Stewart’s other half like Poehler and Fey or Abbott and Costello. I always loved watching these two shows back to back and it makes me sad that it will soon no longer be the case. HIs “Word” and “Decree” segments were always on point and who can forget his bid to run for president? That would have been the best. Colbert for President. He will now be taking over for Letterman which will be interesting to watch.
I really find it almost impossible to not to put Colbert and Stewart in the same category. My favorite bits include those two together. Whether they were doing bits at awards shows or debating over which was better: Hanukkah versus Christmas, together they were unbeatable. They constantly made you think differently about the world. Different perspectives made for an amazing amount of comedy.
4. Craig Ferguson
He was the Scottish comic who seemed to not care except you always got the feeling he did. Whether bantering with his robot sidekick, Geoffrey or ripping up guest info cards before every interview, you never quite knew where it would end up. Once he did a show completely in the dark. There were also his monologues that could range from moving, like his eulogies to his parents and the monologue he did explaining why he would never make a Britney Spears joke–back when she was clearly going through a difficult time to just the best ever. He began every show with, “it’s a great day for America” with the exception of when September 11 was on a show day because as he once explained, September 11 was not a great day for America and he would refuse to say so. His pride at becoming an American citizen was obvious and his love of his Scottish roots were equally obvious. If you have not read his book, American on Purpose, you should. If there was ever a story about someone beating the odds…..this is it.
3. Jimmy Kimmel
He was the sports guy on KROQ and now he is a fixture on Late Night. I love his Celebrities Read Mean Tweets bit which really does expose the fact that people really will say the worst things online. Lie Witness News and This Week in Censorship never fail to make me laugh. People really will pretend to know about things just to save face and anything sounds funny if you bleep it. In honor of Letterman, he is going to air a rerun tonight which I find very sweet. Oh and also, I don’t care what anyone says, his “Friends” reunion bit, where he got the girls of the cast to do a reunion based on a Friends fan fiction he wrote was amazing and the fact that people actually believed Jennifer Aniston was truly annoyed was even more amazing.
2. Jimmy Fallon
A song and dance man. He comes across as likable and kind. His lip sync battles, dance battles, games all showcase his talent. His thank you notes bit are also always wonderful to watch. He knows how to put on a show and he does it well. He comes across as very inviting and warm. Also, his interview with Nicole Kidman where she admitted that she had been flirting with him once years ago and he had missed his chance was classic. Talk about a missed opportunity….
1. Johnny Carson (and a nod to those who came before him)
No list would be complete without mentioning the true king. Carson was not the first host of the Tonight Show. It began in 1954 with Steve Allen hosting for three years. Steve Allen set up the format of an opening monologue, celebrity interviews, comedy bits and audience participation which is still very much in use today. Then after Steve Allen left, Jack Paar took over from 1957-1962. During Jack Paar’s reign, he even walked off the show during the broadcast because a joke about a water closet (aka a toilet) had been censored. Awwww, how times have changed. Apparently, Paar was a bit on the dramatic side. In 1962, the Age of Carson began and the show became the legend that it now is. For the next 30 years, Carson transformed the show with memorable moments like The Great Carsoni and one of my favorites, the time where he had Ed Ames on to teach Carson how to throw a tomahawk. They used a drawing of a man on a large board and when the tomahawk was thrown, a moment was born and Carson’s response, “I didn’t know you were Jewish” was perfection.
Tonight Show Fun Fact: Jimmy Fallon is actually hosting the Tonight Show in the same studio as Jack Paar did turning his time as host of The Tonight Show and Johnny Carson hosted in that same studio as well before the show was moved to Burbank.
Okay….so perhaps this will end up being a Top 11 list because well…..Letterman.
He had touching moments. When he talked about his open heart surgery and his first post-9/11 monologue, you couldn’t help but be moved by his words. Letterman was never a man of many words, but when he had them, they made perfect sense. He will be missed and my favorite Letterman moment? When he took his car to a mechanic, filled the oil with Hershey’s syrup and started to lick the dipstick in front of the mechanic who seem relatively unfazed? I loved his apparent ongoing feud with Oprah and regardless of what people say about his stint hosting the Oscars, the “Oprah Uma, Uma Oprah” joke is still remembered twenty years later so how bad could it have been? In honor of tonight, Farewell Letterman…..definitely one of the greats.