Network late night shows compete for comedy viewership

Alex Devas, Staff Writer

When it comes to television, comedians flourish during the nighttime.  Broadcast from 11 p.m. to an hour past midnight, these entertainers’ shows bring humor and satirical news to live television.  Comedians, such as Jimmy Fallon and Conan O’Brien, and all have their own shows.  Although there are many late night talk shows that air on television, a few of them are famous for the type of entertainment that they provide.

The Tonight Show has been airing since 1954 and has had famous hosts such as Johnny Carson and Jay Leno.  In 2014, Jimmy Fallon made his transition from Late Night to The Tonight Show.  Fallon’s show not only has celebrity guests, but also an abundance of music, games, and cameo appearances.  With The Roots as the house band and Fallon as the host, every episode of the Tonight Show is filled to the brim with entertainment.  Popular skits include lip sync battles, song remixes with classroom instruments, and playing Pictionary with celebrities.  Because of the range of skits, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon is the most watched late night talk show on television.

Conan O’Brien, a former host of The Tonight Show, now has his own show simply titled Conan.  While his show lacks the games and music of Fallon’s show, Conan is full of amusing interviews with celebrities and the occasional adventures into the streets.  As Fallon does, O’Brien starts his show with a monologue about current events, then interviews two guests.  Conan is then concluded with a musical guest or comedic performance.  Because of the limited variety of the show, Conan has poor viewership and is not as popular as other late night talk shows list.

Jimmy Kimmel Live, another popular late night talk show, is hosted by comedian Jimmy Kimmel.  His show not only relies on celebrity interviews, but also on celebrity cameo appearances and films created by fans at home.  Kimmel’s most notable skits are “Celebrities Read Mean Tweets” and variations of “I Told My Kids That,” which are compilations of home videos of parents telling their children things to draw funny reactions.  Like Conan, Jimmy Kimmel Live starts with a monologue, has celebrity interviews, and ends with live music.  However, Kimmel’s show has much better ratings than Conan, due to its ability to create and distribute viral content.

While some late night talk shows focus on celebrity interviews, the strong point of others is satirical news. Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show, discusses headlines, politics, and world news while, of course adding his signature happy-pessimistic humor.  The show also has correspondents, people who are satirically interviewed not only by Jon but also by others who go out to conduct their own field research.  Such field work is often surprisingly thorough for a comedy show and allows the viewer to feel as if he or she is getting the best of both the comedic and the real world.  The Daily Show is very popular and has a large viewership because of the team’s comical abilities and accurate reporting. Stewart recently announced that this current season of The Daily Show would be his seventeenth and last season.

John Oliver, a former correspondent of The Daily Show, became the first host of the show Last Week Tonight in 2014.  This show, similar to The Daily Show, takes a satirical look at news, politics, and current events, but on a weekly basis.  In each of the thirty-minute episodes of Last Week Tonight, Oliver splits the time to talk about two different topics.  Both Stewart and Oliver’s shows provide entertainment while covering real stories and current events.

Now that the competition has been introduced, it is clear that the market for late night talk shows is highly competitive, especially because there seem to be many similarities between each of them.  The real arena in which these different shows compete is not television, but the Internet.  Social media is a constant battleground for viewership that The Tonight Show has gracefully navigated.  The show’s YouTube page has just about 6.5 million subscribers, many more than the other shows’ (including Conan’s 2.5 million).  Additionally, Jimmy Fallon has utilized Facebook’s new news feature perfectly, commonly creating viral entertainment that ends up on the right side of America’s screen.  Such dominant social media usage has been able to distinguish Fallon from his peers.

All these shows have the same guidelines, provide late night entertainment to viewers across the nation.  Though such a landscape’s similarities make it impossible to rank such shows, however, because if you are looking for variety the winner is The Tonight Show.  If you are looking for news, the victors are The Daily Show or Last Week Tonight.  If you are looking for pure comedy, either Conan or Jimmy Kimmel Live should be your top choice.