Late Night Talk Shows (3/1/12)

I have decided to watch all 6 major late night talk shows from the evening of March 1st.  Before you yell at me and ask why Stewart and Colbert are not counted, let me explain.  They do a comedy show, not a talk show.  I am judging on monologue, first desk piece and first guest.  The Cable Twins don’t use that format.  Let me already say they are doing a great show and would always be funnier and more watchable then these 6 because they don't have to tell straight stand up jokes or talk to 3 people a night.  I also have to be upfront and say I love Dave and I hate Jay.  

David Letterman

Preconception: Dave is my TV Friend.  I have watched Dave pretty close to EVERY day since the late 80’s.  He is the only standard left that is carrying Johnny Carson’s legacy.  But, I will say he has stopped really trying to do fun and different comedy pieces.  I have felt for years, he should move his show to more of a Tom Snyder feel.  Book 3 guests and do a lot less of the silly comedy.  He is a comic genius; he doesn’t need to do "bits" at this point of his career.

Monologue: King Kong jokes, tax jokes.  Mitt Romney is rich joke – check.  No mention of Newt.  Not one funny joke or anything entertaining at all.  All seemed very untopical and could have been told any night and probably was.

1st Desk Piece: Twitter talk. Talk of Bonanza and Big Valley.  Weekend Late Show, which is my least favorite thing they do.  I don’t see how anyone would ever think it was funny.  Doris Day Mention.  Barbara Stanwyck  says “Show us some of Tom Barkley’s Guts.”   These are some really dated mentions, I feel like this show could have been on in 1970.  The Top 10 on people named Romney. (Tina Fey cameo) The number 1 was Scott.  But it didn’t save the list.  Worst desk piece I have seen from Dave in years.  I assume it was because I love Dave and now I have to rank him low.   "SHOW US SOME OF TOM BARKLEY’S GUTS" was the catch phrase of the night.

1st Guest: Jon Hamm (Mad Men) Dave asked a good Mad Men question that told a bit of what was behind the scenes.  A good baseball question which Jon was interested in.  Jon went to college with Roger Clemens - that is interesting.  Dave has a great call back – “Now we know how you could afford to buy the Dodgers.”  John Hamm really told interesting stories and I truly believe these two are having a conversation.  Jon Hamm has a great call back – “was Barbara Stanwyck in that?”  I have always thought that people should listen to Dave’s desk piece and then bring it up as a guest.  This interview has really made me like Jon.  Ends with Jon wearing Paul’s glasses.  Great job.

Review:  So at first I complained about the desk piece, but that was what made the interview great.  The thing of Dave is that you don’t know where the call back is going to come from.  Front part of the show was awful, ended up being interesting and entertaining.

Craig Ferguson

Preconception: I really don’t get Craig. I have never been able to watch his show for long.

Monologue:  He starts by questioning someone from the audience.  And the audience member had better jokes than him.    I liked his theme song.  It is cute.  His thing is to come to the camera and be obnoxious. I know that is his thing but I don't like it.  Mitt Romney is rich joke – check.  He is very silly.  I get that he doesn’t tell jokes and really most jokes aren’t that good, but talking just to talk, doesn’t work for me.  He truly makes me want to flip the channel and I am watching on my computer.  I think he is someone you would have to either  “get it” or not. And I don't get it. Sorry, I couldn’t watch it all.

1st Desk Piece:  Talks to a skeleton and plays the harmonica.  Answers Tweets and Emails.  Yeah, this guy is not for me.  He is just talking to talk.  Also yells a lot.  Comedy shouldn’t be loud.  It can be loud, but that shouldn’t be why it is funny.   He smashes a phone.  I guess I feel like this show is trying too hard with nothing.  I would describe this as disrespectful.

1st Guest: Henry Winkler. Craig asks if Henry spits when he talks and  if a booger ever flies out of his nose.  This show is for 12 year olds and they are not up.  Henry is talking about fishing, which he is interested in.  Craig doesn’t listen and is trying to make jokes.  He should have tried telling jokes in the monologue.  Henry Winkler is the Fonz for cripes sakes!  He was on Arrested Development.  You could have had a conversation with this hero of television.  Craig tells his audience to shut up, Henry says no.  Craig throws paper on the floor, Henry wants to clean it up.  It is the difference between respect for an industry and disrespect.

Review:  If you like Craig, I would assume you don’t like anyone else on television.  I may very well be too old for him or too polite.


Jimmy Kimmel

Preconception: I love Jimmy Kimmel.  If I had more time in life, I would watch him every day.  He is doing comedy that really works.  If you have not seen his skit, “pitching Oprah new show ideas”  I suggest you watch it.

Monologue: I like this theme song too.  It is exciting when they sing his name and he comes out.  Starts with Justin Bieber jokes.  He moves really quickly between jokes.  It is interesting because it’s like he is hurrying but I like it after watching Craig, who is only wasting time.  The way he uses clips and pictures in his monologue is much smoother than Dave.  I don’t know who Snookie is, but I like the jokes anyway.  Does a cartoon on baby Snookie.  It wasn’t funny to me, but it was creative, so I like it.  Does  a joke about the naked interview guy like Dave did.  But shows the video where a guy is holding a hamburger while taking the naked guy down.  That is funny.  Does a bit called: Fashion week or Photoshop. Skit is really creative.  This is what Dave used to do.  Then does bloopers from Movie: The Movie.  A lot of work went into this monologue.  Holy crap, now they are doing unnecessary censor ship, too.  I can’t imagine anyone beating this monologue.

1st Desk Piece: Awww, I see why he had so much in his monologue. He doesn’t do a desk piece so part of what I wrote in Monologue should be down here.

1st Guest: Adam Carolla.   I think it’s funny I never watch this show and Adam is on.  Watching them together is like seeing two old friends getting back together.  Jimmy did a good job listening to a story about Adam’s grandma because you know he has heard it before.  Adam shows really funny pictures from his youth.  They work well together - as they should.  It is fun to see them talk about Bill Mahr and how it affected them when Jimmy replaced Bill.

Review:  As my third show of the day, I have to say this is the best one so far.  Jimmy is really easy and fun.  It really is like a party every night.  I might start watching this more.  I wish he would have had a different guest so I could have judged him on someone who isn’t a lifelong friend, but he really packed in a lot of comedy in the first 12 minutes.

Jimmy Fallon

Preconception: I have never seen this show before.  So this will be my first.

Monologue:  Lots of yelling to begin the show.  Wow, the guests are pretty awesome.  Lindsay Lohan, Elvis Costello and Rob Riggle.  Why does Dave not get these people, they are still in New York?  Really seems loud for a late night show, I am old.  Hmm, I am getting to watch the 600th episode.  Opening joke about gas prices, I like that because everyone should talking about how we are getting robbed.  His percentage of jokes that are bombing is pretty high.  Mitt Romney is rich joke – NO, but did a joke about him being a flip flopper.

1st Desk Piece: Hmm, no commercial before the first desk piece, interesting.  Wow he is having Elvis Costello doing a Bruce Springsteen cover.  I like that.  Having a week long thing with musical guests.  So he is doing a Twitter thing as well.  He has people tweet in things and then makes fun of them.  Easy to write and gets viewers watching.  Tried to use a call back from the monologue on "Bunga- Unga" when he missed pronounced Garmin but the real call back was on not being able to pronounce Lindsay Lohan’s name. The callback is the key to a late night show.  He really is just reading the texts from viewers which is what Craig did too.  It’s better than Craig or Dave’s desk piece though.

1st Guest:  Lindsay Lohan.  I have to say it cause it must be said, she looks absolutely awful.  I am not sure that asking how she got to host SNL is the best first question.  We all know why she is there.  She has no other job offers.   Lindsay Lohan just said that Liz Taylor dated Richard Burton towards the end of Liz’s life.  I don’t think so.  That was a long time ago, Lindsay.  And he just told her she will get an Emmy for playing Liz, and the audience didn’t clap cause they all know, it was a suck up lie.  This interview isn’t working at all.  They are having a party that we are not invited to.  It’s interesting to compare to Adam and Jimmy who are friends, while these two are reminiscing about a SNL skit and we are not laughing as much as they are.  Then they show a clip from SNL, hmmm could this be NBC cross marketing.  This entire conversation has been NBC based.  He is playing Pictionary with Lindsay and an audience member.  I like the concept let’s see how this goes.  Eh, I like the idea, because their conversation didn’t work, but neither does this.

Review:  It wasn’t bad, but wasn’t good either.  I wasn’t annoyed or engaged.  Wow, that does sound like NBC.  I will watch in another 600 shows.

Jay Leno

Preconception: I hate him.  I have not seen him even for a moment since 1993-ish.  Watching this show is literally the hardest thing I have ever done for the Red Room.

Monologue:  Ha, he is still high-fiving.  If you have ever seen The Larry Sanders Show, you have to know that is really funny.  First joke was a Mitt Romney is rich joke.  He really does yell his jokes.  2nd joke is also a  Mitt is rich joke. Back to back.  OK now they are playing music after each bad punch line.  Not sure I get that.  But I have to admit he is telling straight jokes.  No fooling around, no talking or reacting, just jokes.  I think it is interesting how homogenized both NBC talk shows have been.  Showed a video clip and told us to watch it 4 times while it played. Does a gas joke as well.  Does a negative NBC joke.  Umm, who would believe you are not a company man after stealing this show twice.

1st Desk Piece:  Facebook bit.  And Leno explained what Facebook was.  That is awesome.  Hmmm, so  they also are just using viewer's Facebook comments as jokes.  So 3 shows just have given up on comedy and has their viewers write it.   He is holding a iPad which is supposed to house the responses but we see him reading off a queue card.  Reminds me of Natalie Portman on the Oscars.  By the way, all his responses to the people’s comments sort of got groans from his audience.

1st Guest: Julianne Moore.  This will be interesting because she is always great on Dave.  Julianne brought a lot of props to tell good stories.  Leno did a good job of letting her talk, but I wouldn’t say they had a conversation but from what I remember, it seemed like he got a lot better at letting them talk.   He asks questions and lets her answer, no back and forth.  For all the political jokes Leno does, he really couldn’t dig deep to talk to her about Sarah Palin and the political fallout  that occurred with her nomination.   I really do want to see this movie, I love Jay Roach.

Review:  Well anyone who knows me knows that I hate Leno.  I have to be honest, the show was fine.  It is polished, it is clean, it moves, has great guests.  Julianne really saved him I think.  I just have no interest in it.  When you think of what the man did, it matters to me.  Even if you forgave him for Dave, I don’t see how you could forgive him for Conan.

Conan O’Brien

Preconception:  Conan is one of my favorites.  I will say I watched him last because it took the longest for his show to be up online.

Monologue:  I don’t really respond to the nipple thing and the dancing around, but I know it is him.  And that is the difference between what NBC puts out and others.  He is who is he.  Just like a candidate for president you have to be who you are.  I also really believe in Conan and Andy’s relationship.   Does a Bieber at 18 joke like Jimmy.  Mitt Romney is rich joke – Check.  I find it interesting that even Leno didn’t have Obama jokes.    Conan does a lot of fooling around in his monologue but it isn’t as distracting as Craig.  Does a fun video about someone trying to get into Yale.  It was a good response.

1st Desk Piece:  talked about their iPad App.   So I find it interesting how much social media is influencing these shows.  Would Johnny have Tweeted us?  Conan does a New Coffee Table Books bit.  This is like an old time talk show bit and its just alright, but not great.  Him and Andy make it work.   Another Mitt is rich joke.    Andy is using the app while they watch.  I think TV shows now what a lot out of us while we watch them.

1st Guest: Professional stuntman Steve Ho.  Conan learns self-defense using house hold items.  He shows Conan different ways to protect himself. Just like the Pictionary idea, I like that this is different and new, but it just doesn’t pan out.

Review:   This was a pretty weak Conan.  I watched him last week when he went to a Soul Food Restaurant and it was awesome.  I think it’s funny that Dave and Conan are my favorites, and their shows were both weak.


Overall.  I think that it comes down to who do you like as a person.  Dave is a grumpy old man, but respects his guest.  Leno is the only one to show nothing of himself to offend no one, but then doesn’t engage either.  Ferguson is something I can’t even comprehend, I have no idea how he is on TV.  Kimmel is a complete entertainer that produces a lot of fun with no fluff.  Fallon seems like a good fit for after Leno.  I like the music guest idea and the Pictionary but I didn’t see a lot of personality.  Conan has a unique brand of humor but wasn’t on that night.  Again, I think Stewart and Colbert would win this competition every night, but that is because their shows are different.  The late night talk show is an art that Johnny Carson perfected.  It might be old but I think it offers something that we need.  I will say that Jon Hamm’s interview was the only interview where I really felt like I got to know the person on the show.  That could have been Dave or Jon, probably both.  I don’t know what is to be learned from this experiment, but I do know watching 6 of these back to back is too much.  Ranking: Kimmel, Letterman, Conan, Leno, Fallon, Ferguson.

Read my Tribute to Johnny Carson

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