The Great Late Night Debate

There are now more Late Night show hosts than justices on The Supreme Court, but who to watch?

I have long been a massive fan of the genre and with all the attention on Late Night shows and hosts over the last 12 months I thought I would put my two cents in.

The venerable franchise is now helmed by the tall red headed host who appeals to college kids and the younger demo, which NBC was willing to give up ratings giant Leno for.

His previous Late Night show (which he hosted for 16 years) was a hotbed of Masturbating Bears and Abe Vigodas, the new 11.30 Conan has calmed down, dropped the fancy dance at the start of the show but many of his off the wall comedy bits remain. Like Cornando where he attempts to appeal to the Latino audience by performing a telenovela where undoubtedly he ends up with a beautiful woman.

Repetitive, but none of the less very funny, even if its just to see Conan in faux mustache.

The addition of longtime sidekick (1993-2000) Andy Richter to announcer status has helped the program carve a fresh identity as a hipper alternative in Late Night, which I predict will reap longtime rewards for NBC even if that means a few years in the wilderness behind Letterman.

LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON / 12.35am Weeknights on NBC

The newest addition to Late Night, is Jimmy Fallon, Stepping in to Conan’s old stomping ground and the original late night home of David Letterman. Big shoes to fill and so far its a mixed bag. Fallon relies too heavily on Audience participtation games, which either shows he is trying to offer something different to the other Late Night shows, or laziness on the part of writers.

The segments are often rescued by his quick wit, but sometimes can drag on and become played out.

His announcer Steve Higgins has some nice one liners and the highlight is the band ‘The Roots’ which offer great opportunities for segments involving musical numbers.

Overall, there is room to grow and as soon as he becomes more relaxed and not rely on his notes so heavily he could do a Conan and slip into the role nicely.


The newly re-crowned King of Late Night is David Letterman, with soaring ratings post-Leno, he has become the new go to guy for Middle America, uncomfortable with Conan’s more off the wall comedy and longing for Leno to return to after 11pm.

His recent personal issues have plagued the longest serving host of the genre but he has weathered storms before, including 17 years of Jay Leno and switching networks. Whether there is any long term impact is literally a $30 Million question.

His ratings post-scandal have been some of his best at CBS, whether or not this could be his Hugh Grant moment that shot Leno to the top of the Late Night ratings is a question that will only be answered with the passing of time. These things are not won in weeks but years.


The one Late Night show that Australia misses out on, which is a big shame as its one of the most engrossing. The Scottish born, newly naturalized American is a cheekier and more cheery younger Letterman. He does not seem to enjoy the fame but the fame loves him.

He has some of the most committed fans of all Late Night hosts, and for someone who only debuted in 2005 is quite an accomplishment.

He has garnered attention since CBS began uploading videos to YouTube, that saw his ratings rise to at times even outperforming Conan who was competing with him at the time.

He is now regularly outperforming Fallon in total viewers, but still a distance behind him in younger viewers. He is also currently benefiting from a much stronger lead-in from Letterman.

Unpredictable, Different and a show with a lot of promise. Craig Ferguson is a star in the making, but going by previous statements from the Scot, he may not want it.

JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE! / 12.00am Weeknights on ABC

The largely ignored but not to be underestimated Kimmel has been working away on his ABC Late Night show since 2003 and only in the last 2 or so years has it caught any attention largely thanks to 2 comedy music videos featuring Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

The former Man Show co-host is a fine interviewer but sometimes struggles with his monologue, which elicits few laughs from the crowd. His personality doesn’t really suit the monologue, lacking much energy they often lead to no returns.

The lack of many comedy segments is off putting, often going straight from a monologue to lengthy guest interviews.

His most consistent segment ‘This Week in Unnecessary Censorship’ is one of the best things about the show, unfortunately it contains no effort from the writers or Kimmel himself, which says a lot about the show.

Needs Improvement, but by no means a poor attempt.

Cable and the Others

There are many other Late Night Shows…

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report (both on Comedy Central), Chelsea Lately (E!), Red Eye (Fox News), Last Call with Carson Daly (NBC) and various others that I have missed.

But none of them stick to the same Late Night format or in The Jay Leno Show’s case, not in a Late Night timeslot. So I have chosen to leave them out.

In Conclusion

Whether or not you want the bizarre antics of Conan O’Brien and his gang of unusual suspects, Letterman with his old school dangerous routine which gets ever so more mild with every passing year, Craig Ferguson’s improvisational, personal and sometimes emotional monologues, Kimmel and his brand of observational wit or Jimmy Fallon’s schoolboy charm and quick wit, there is something for everyone.

Unless you’re interested in a minority or female hosted show of course.

Published by

Mike Beckham

Mike Beckham resides near Melbourne, Australia.