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Top 11 Late Night Talk Show Hosts

By Edited Sep 19, 2015 0 0

1. Johnny Carson: Host of the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. He hosted the show for 30 years, from 1962 through 1992, when he retired from show business. Carson died on January 23, 2005 in Los Angeles, of respiratory failure arising from emphysema. He was 79 years old.

During his years as host of the Tonight Show, Carson adopted a casual, conversational approach which included a great deal of interaction with guests. He received several awards and was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame. Carson received a personal Peabody Award in recognition of his 25th anniversary.

Carson had public feuds with other celebrities including Wayne Newton, who once said that Johnny Carson was a “Mean-spirited human being,” and Joan Rivers, whom Carson felt betrayed him when she hosted her own late night talk show.

2. Jay Leno: Host of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno

Leno made his first appearance on The Tonight Show in 1977 and took over the duties of host on May 25, 1992. In 2003, and announced that he would leave The Tonight Show in 2010. His ‘final’ show aired on May 29, 2009. On September 14, 2009, Jay began hosting a new talk show which aired on NBC from10pm to 11pm, called The Jay Leno Show. On January 7, 2010, NBC announced that Jay would return to The Tonight Show after the Winter Olympics. On March 1, 2010 Jay Leno returned to his hosting job on The Tonight Show.

3. David Letterman: Host of the Late Show with David Letterman       

Letterman wrote material for popular sitcoms and began appearing on The Tonight Show with Jonny Carson.  In 1978, he became a regular guest host and in 1980 he was offered his own show, the daytime David Letterman Show. The show lasted three months and when it ended, NBC offered him another show. Late Night with David Letterman followed The Tonight Show from 1982 to 1993.  In 1993, Letterman moved to CBS to host the Late Show with David Letterman. It was highly speculated his departure from NBC was due to their selection of Jay Leno as host of The Tonight Show.

4. Conan O'Brien: Host of Conan

O’Brien is a television talk show host, comedian, writer, producer and performer. He is currently the host of Conan, a late-night talk show that airs on cable television.

O'Brien landed his first comedy job as a writer for the comedy series Not Necessarily the News, and thereafter wrote for several comedy shows. He later moved to New York City to work on the writing staff of Saturday Night Live, and then The Simpsons. He was the host of the show Late Night with Conan O’Brien for seven months, and on November 8, 2019, O’Brien began hosting a late-night talk show on the cable TV network, simply called “Conan.”

5. Joan Rivers: Host of the Late Show Starring Joan Rivers

Rivers is an Emmy Award-winning comedian, television personality and actress. The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers premiered October 9, 1986 and after a moderate start, the ratings soon fell. Rumors of behind-the-scenes feuds between Rivers and network executives became public after she was fired in early 1987.

Rivers’ show ran at the same time as the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and felt betrayed by his onetime guest host, thus began the conflict between the two of them. Rivers claimed she tried to reach out to Carson but he never spoke to her again.

Since leaving the Late Show, Rivers has been in several programs; in 2009 Rivers captured the title of ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ (2) after competing and winning on the popular reality show. She is currently the host of the show The Fashion Police on E! TV.

6. Jimmy Kimmel: Host of Jimmy Kimmel Live

Kimmel was known as “Jimmy the Sports Guy” on the popular Kevin and Bean radio show. He began his television career in 1997, hosting a game show on Comedy Central called Win Ben Stein’s Money. In 1999, he began work for the same network on a show he and his partners produced called The Man Show. In 2002 he and his production company created the show Crank Yankers. On January 26, 2003 he became the host of Jimmy Kimmel Live, on the ABC network.

7. Craig Ferguson: Host of the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson

Ferguson was born in Glasgow, Scotland and moved to Los Angeles in 1994, where he landed a role on an ABC comedy sitcom called Maybe This Time. In 1996 he began playing a character on another ABC sitcom, The Drew Cary Show. Ferguson took over as the host of CBS’s The Late Late Show on January 3, 2005 and on February 1, 2008, he became an American citizen.  

8. Jimmy Fallon: Host of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon        

Fallon began his career doing stand-up comedy, impressions and characters. In 1998, he became a regular cast member on Saturday Night Live and co-hosted the popular segment Weekend Update. He left the show to pursue feature films and appeared in several movies. Jimmy Fallon began hosting Late Night on March 2, 2009, replacing Conan O’Brien.

9. Carson Daly: Host of Last Call with Carson Daly

Daly began his career as a DJ for So. California radio station KROQ. He moved to MTV in 1997, where he began his television career as a VJ on MTV’s TRL. While at MTV, he hosted MTV Live, Total Request Live and Making the Band (for MTV and ABC). Last Call began airing on January 7, 2002. Carson Daly has also hosted several specials for NBC including Macy’s 4th of July Spectacular and New Year’s Eve with Carson Daily.

10. George Lopez: Host of Lopez Tonight

Lopez began his career as a stand-up comedian and made several movies before staring in his own ABC network television sitcom in 2002, titled ‘George Lopez.’ He has starred in many movies and his talk show, Lopez Tonight, premiered on November 9, 2009 on the cable network TBS.  In November 2010, Lopez Tonight moved to its new time slot of 12 midnight to accommodate “Conan,” the show hosted by Conan O’Brien.

11. Wanda Sykes : Host of the Wanda Sykes Show

Sykes began her stand-up career at a Coors Light Super Talent Showcase in Washington, DC. Then, in 1995 she opened for comedian Chris Rock, who hired her in 1997 as a writer and performer on The Chris Rock Show , and in 2001 she appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Sykes also preformed in several projects for Comedy Central including Premium Blend, Comedy Central Presents Wanda Sykes, Crank Yankers, Wanda Does It, and Tongue Untied.  In 2003, she starred in her own Fox network sitcom, Wanda at Large. In 2006 she began a recurring role on the CBS sitcom The New Adventures of Old Christine. The Wanda Sykes Show premiered November 7, 2009.

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