TIME Late Night

Johnny Carson Reigns as America’s Favorite Late-Night Host, Poll Finds

Johnny Carson On 'The Tonight Show'
Ken Regan—Camera 5/Getty Images

Twenty-three years after retiring from The Tonight Show — and a decade after his death — Johnny Carson remains the most popular late-night TV host, and it’s not even close, according to results of a scientific poll released Tuesday.

Carson, who hosted the NBC show from 1962-1992, was identified by 25 percent of Americans who were asked the open-ended question: “Who is your favorite late-night television talk show host of all time?”

The Quinnipiac University Poll surveyed 2,105 Americans by telephone.

Coming in second was David Letterman, who earned 13 percent of the vote, though the recently retired host was beat by “none,” which scored 14 percent of the vote.

The Quinnipiac poll broke down the results into four different age groups, and Carson was such a dominant choice among older Americans that it more than made up for the fact that only 1 percent of people ages 18-29 called him their favorite host.

In third place overall was Tonight Show host Jay Leno, with 7 percent. He was followed by his successor, Jimmy Fallon, with 6 percent. ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel and Conan O’Brien of TBS each got 3 percent of the vote, while Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart got 2 percent.

Even Bill O’Reilly cracked the Top 16 list that Quinnipiac released Tuesday, though he’s not technically a late-night talk-show host (his Fox News Channel show airs at 5 p.m. on the West Coast).

Quinnipiac also asked respondents to name their favorite host currently on TV, and Fallon won with 20 percent of the vote, compared with 11 percent for second-place Kimmel.

Third in the “currently on TV” category was O’Brien (6 percent) followed by Stewart (2 percent). Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert — who gets Letterman’s old show in September — was next with 1 percent.

This article originally appeared on Hollywoodreporter.com

TIME Television

Watch Justin Bieber Sing Car Karaoke with James Corden

The Bieb also revealed how many times he wears his underwear in a row

While you were still crying over David Letterman’s late night departure, James Corden was asking Justin Bieber if he ever makes love to his own music. While the answer to that was a sad no, there were some other interesting revelations on Wednesday night’s Late Late Show.

In the clip, Corden and Bieber drive around Los Angeles, shouting out to fans on the street and singing along to Bieber’s hit songs “Baby” and “Where Are U Now.” In between all the singing and seat dancing, Corden managed to get some dirt on the singer, like the fact that he only wears underwear once before throwing it out. (As a Calvin Klein model, perhaps he feels he has to do his part to keep the company in business?) Bieber also showed off his impressive skills with a Rubik’s Cube, which has to be seen to be beliebed.

TIME Television

David Letterman Leaves Us, Laughing

The late-night legend's last episode was emotional (but not maudlin) and, as it should be, very funny.

Would he leave us laughing or crying?

The David Letterman who crashed late night on NBC in 1982 was hilarious, but not exactly the sentimental type. (A 1986 Viewer Mail segment ended with him being dragged off by the cops for indecency after trying to refute a viewer who said “you don’t have a romantic bone in your body.”) In his later CBS years, he learned to open up—about his heart surgery, 9/11, becoming a father. But there was always that reserve, that distance, that resistance to being self-serious.

So Wednesday night, his last as a TV host after three and a half decades, the man who introduced TV to a new kind of comedy show left us with … a comedy show. Letterman’s last Late Show was nostalgic but not maudlin, gracious but not mournful, valedictory but not a eulogy. Letterman’s last minutes behind the desk were as heavy on the laughs as on the thank-yous, an hour-plus of an entertainer being an entertainer and enjoying it. It was true to Dave, it was fun and it was terrific.

And why not? Letterman was leaving on his own timetable, not being defenestrated by the network. He remade his art and his business. He got to spend more than three decades of his career doing more or less what the hell he wanted on national TV and left widely acknowledged as the best at what he did (whatever his ratings). Sure, goodbye is sad, but then again—as he said in sheepishly acknowledging the effusive, lugubrious praise of the past weeks—”Save a little for my funeral.”

So the night kicked off with typical self-effacement, as well as by-special-celebrity-guests-effacement. After a clip of President Gerald Ford saying (after Nixon’s resignation) “Our long national nightmare is over,” Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama repeated the line at Letterman.

He took the stage with a brisk monologue including one last joke at the disappointment he could never stop picking at: “It’s beginning to look like I’m not going to get the Tonight Show!” Stephen Hawking, he said, called to say he’d crunched the numbers on Letterman’s more than 6,000 shows and said, “it works out to about eight minutes of laughter.” And the night’s classic-quality Top Ten list (Things I’ve Always Wanted to Say to Dave), delivered by frequent guests, was like a mini-celebrity roast, with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, in the presence of Jerry Seinfeld, saying, “Thanks for letting me take part in another hugely disappointing series finale!”

Trust Letterman to deflate showbiz hyperbole and cheerfully let some of the air out of the own celebratory float we’ve been parading around for him. The bulk of the middle of the show was a look back at his career, but it felt less like an In Memoriam than a highlight reel assembled by a man who was simply damn proud of the work he and his crew had done.

The sweetest of the prepared reels was devoted to a day behind the scenes at Late Show: polishing and pitching jokes, riffing one-liners over White House Correspondents Dinner footage, dealing with the million small details of the daily production. What came across wasn’t grieving but pride in the machine that Worldwide Pants had built over the years, and the comedy force that began with Letterman and Merrill Markoe’s bizarrely brilliant daytime show in 1980 (generously highlighted in the clip reels).

At one point in the backstage film, the camera stopped on Paul Shaffer, with a droll observation about what it’s like to be the boss: “There’s a parade of people coming and they all say the same thing: ‘Dave, I know you hate this.’ And then they go on to do what he hates.”

It was in the last segment, as the episode ran into overtime, that Letterman unleashed his emotion, settling in for one of the “desk talks” that have been the highlights of his second great period at CBS. But characteristically, his sentiment was fond, not wistful.

He remembered touring the Ed Sullivan Theater before moving to CBS: “It was a dump… crawling with rats—big rats.” He thanked CBS President Les Moonves and Biff Henderson, the gang in the control room—”Let’s keep it to three drinks tonight!”—and his writers. He thanked, of course, Paul and the band. And he thanked—with the kind of personal touch he’s been showing in his later days—his son Harry and his wife Regina, while giving a shout-out to Harry’s friend Tommy. (The closing image of the show was a home video of Harry skiing.)

Were his eyes a touch pink? Maybe, but his voice was steady. He seemed to feel good—in the zone—knowing, maybe, that he’d just put on a good hour of TV. His last minutes on the air were like his favorite song, “Everlong,” which the Foo Fighters played over hundreds of stills from Letterman history: emotional but driving, ever letting up, hurtling forward to the end. Until simply, steadily, honestly: “All right, that’s pretty much all I got. The only thing I have left to do, for the last time on a television program: Thank you and good night.”

David Letterman, our host, our comedy uncle, our after-hours pal, delivered the laughs one more time. I would have to supply the tears myself. Sorry, Dave. I know you hate this.

TIME Television

David Letterman’s Top 10 Sports Moments

Highlights include Larry and Magic, training with the Yankees and Buddy Biancalana

Luckily for sports fans, David Letterman has long loved the games—he even co-owns an IndyCar racing team. In his 33 years on TV, he’s interviewed countless big-name athletes, and done many goofy bits involving sports. As he signs off on Wednesday night, here’s a top 10 list for Letterman and sports:

10. Little Buddy

As Pete Rose chased Ty Cobb’s all-time hit record in 1985, Letterman poked a little fun at diminutive Kansas City Royals shortstop Buddy Biancalana, who finished his career a .205 hitter. But Biancalana was stellar (for him) in the 1985 World Series, hitting .278 over seven games, and after KC won it all, Biancalana appeared on Late Night for some self-deprecating fun.

9. The Nash Report

Letterman knew when to enlist others for comedy help—look no further than Rupert Jee. Here, Steve Nash covers the 2009 NBA Finals, between the Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic, for the Late Show, and asks analyst Jeff Van Gundy a pretty, er, direct question about his brother, Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy.

8. Albert Achievement Awards

For those of us who grew up without cable or ESPN—some of us really did—Marv Albert’s Letterman appearances were the only place to see sports bloopers. Earlier this year, Marv picked out his all-time favorite follies. Yes!

7. Revenge Pitch

In 1985, Letterman called Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Terry Forster a “fat tub of goo.” Later in the year, Forster paid Letterman a visit, sporting what could only be a 1981 World Series ring, thank you very much (Forster pitched for the champion Los Angeles Dodgers that season). Forster entered the studio chomping on a “David Letterman” sandwich. “It had a lot of tongue on it,” he said.

6. Loosening Larry and Magic

Later in Letterman’s career, he became a master conversationalist, more willing and able to put subjects at ease. He puts his skills on display in this interview with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird a few years back, probing the dynamics of their relationship. Magic, more outgoing, was inclined to be friendly with his rival; Bird, an introvert, wanted none of it. “He’s got that big smile,” Bird said of Magic. “My goal is to take three of them teeth home with me.”

5. Oh, So That’s How You Do It!

In 1987, Minnesota Twins knuckleballer Joe Niekro was suspended for 10 days after an emery board flew out of his pocket while the umps searched him for suspicious items. So naturally, Niekro went on Letterman to show how to scuff a baseball—while coyly denying he did it that night.

4. Cubs Win!

Will Ferrell broke out his Harry Caray imitation in a recent appearance: the legendary Cubs broadcaster asked “what are we going to do about this wall in Berlin?” and shouted the names of players who haven’t been on the Cubs in years. “And the 2-0 pitch is in there to Dunston, strike on the corner!”

3. Spring Training

Dave heads up to Yankee Stadium in 1992 to workout with Yanks manager Buck Showalter and coach Frank Howard. They discuss the fine art of spitting.

2. Olympic Mom

During the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, dispatches from Dorothy Mengering—Letterman’s mom—became appointment TV. Her gentle midwestern demeanor, insistence on calling Letterman “David,” and dry, one-sentence answers to her son’s nagging questions made Mengering an ideal foil. “Tonya! Tonya!” Mengering shouted, barely audible, while Tonya Harding stood a few feet away. She also scored a sit-down interview with Nancy Kerrigan. “Would you like cocoa?” she asked.

1. Baseball Biff

Speaking of comic foils, for my money nobody beats Letterman stagehand Biff Henderson, especially when he interacted with athletes. Somehow, Letterman convinced the staid, secretive New York Yankees to let their home ballpark become a Late Night/Late Show playground. And Biff took advantage: a few hours before a 1998 World Series game—a World Series game!—he was on hand to ask silly questions and lead “Yanni” chants. For viewers, his laryngitis was well worth it.

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=geEQjDV_8E0]

Read next: Everything You Need to Know About David Letterman’s Last Show

TIME Television

Watch Seth Meyers Redo Letterman’s Late Night Opening

"And now a man who knows that it's Letterman's show and he's just borrowing it: Seth Meyers" 

Seth Meyers is currently the steward of NBC’s Late Night franchise, making him inexorably tied to the legacy of David Letterman, who hosted the show at its inception and is now concluding his late night tenure over at CBS.

So, as Meyers’ nod to the outgoing Late Show host, Late Night‘s opening credits Tuesday night were re-imagined in the style of, well, Late Night‘s opening credits—from 1982.

So what changed over the years in New York City? According to Meyers, there are now “so many fewer pornography theaters.”

Letterman’s final show airs Wednesday night.

TIME Television

Why David Letterman and Bill Murray Are Meant for Each Other

Both actor and host evolved from rebel smartasses to philosophical comedy statesmen

The first night Late Night with David Letterman aired, Bill Murray bounded on stage and vowed to shadow Letterman for the rest of his career. “I know you’re on here late night where nobody can stop you,” he ranted. “‘If it’s the last thing I’m gonna do, I’m gonna make every second of your life from this moment on a living hell.”

Tuesday night, Murray will appear on the penultimate Late Show as Letterman’s last scheduled guest, and there’s an obvious symmetry to it, as well as history; Murray’s walked or flown onto Dave’s stage numerous times over the years. But there’s more to it than that.

In the current print edition of TIME (subscribe to read!) I have an essay about Letterman’s 30-plus years in late night. One point that I ended up cutting for space is that Murray is not just a fitting last guest because he was Letterman’s first. He’s inextricably bound to Letterman because in many ways they’ve had the same career.

When they first emerged nationally, Murray on Saturday Night Live and Letterman in late night, they developed reputations as master smartasses. They were entertainers part of whose acts riffed on the shtick of entertaining: think Murray’s lounge-lizard rendition of the Star Wars theme on SNL. The 1970s SNL and the 1980s Letterman, both grimy New York institutions, had a kind of punk-rock sensibility, puncturing the artifice that had bloated showbiz and stripping TV down to essentials and anarchy. (You could say the same of some other classic early-Dave guests, like Andy Kaufman and Sandra Bernhard.)

Fans responded to that same sensibility in Murray and Letterman, but their detractors saw a similarity too. People who didn’t like Murray thought he used irony as a crutch, using his laid-back delivery to smugly distance himself from, and make himself superior to, his characters and material. Letterman came in for some of the same knocks, as I write in my TIME essay:

To some detractors, Letterman was the culture’s Typhoid Mary of nihilism. In David Foster Wallace’s short story “My Appearance,” an actress is coached on how to succeed on Late Night: “Laugh in a way that’s somehow deadpan. Act as if you knew from birth that everything is clichéd and hyped and empty and absurd, and that’s just where the fun is.”

But to see Murray and Letterman as mere smirkers sold them both short. Murray’s comedy had a well of emotion; Letterman’s “irony” was in fact a passionate response against phoniness. And as their careers went on, they each became that rare kind of performer: the comic who matures and learns to express a kind of wisdom without overturning the schmaltz barrel. Murray kept making funny movies, but as he aged and greyed, he tapped into the melancholy that is often the silent partner of comedy, working with directors, like Sofia Coppola and Wes Anderson, who knew how to bring that out in them.

Letterman, meanwhile, struggled in the ’90s after moving to CBS; he topped Leno in the ratings for a while, but didn’t quite seem to know how to function as top dog rather than underdog. Then in his next decade–maybe not precisely with his heart surgery in 2000, but right around there–he entered his second great period, this time not as a comic bomb-thrower but as a raconteur, a spoken-word essayist. As Letterman aged and mellowed, he may have lost some edge, but he became the one guy in late-night talk who really knew how to talk–be it about 9/11, his 2009 sex scandal, or the mortality of his friend and guest Warren Zevon.

Latter-era Letterman and Murray weren’t two wise guys getting sappy in their old age. They were two artists mastering their instruments. I can think of no better way to say goodbye than to hear them duet one more time.

TIME Television

Watch Tom Hanks Teach David Letterman How to Use a Selfie Stick

The actor goes full tourist on the Late Show host

Tom Hanks stopped by the Late Show with David Letterman on Monday night and did something you’d expect from a tourist or a Kardashian. He took a selfie using a selfie stick.

“Rita announced when these first came out that we would never ever have a selfie stick in the house,” Hanks said of his wife, actress Rita Wilson. “But they sell these selfies all over Florence, which was the birthplace of the Renaissance.”

Hanks suggested Letterman, whose last show airs on May 20, purchase a selfie stick for his retirement vacation. “When you, in a couple weeks, head down to — I’m just going to guess what you’re going to be up to — Space Camp, take one of these bad boys with you.”

Letterman, though initially apprehensive about the contraption, was impressed by the end result. “It’s almost as if someone else has taken the picture for you,” he said.

TIME Television

Amy Schumer Knows Who the Bachelorette Is and Will Totally Tell You

Will you accept this rose?

Amy Schumer stopped by Jimmy Kimmel Live! Thursday night pretty much just to gloat about the fact that she knows the identity of the next The Bachelorette.

As you may recall, The Bachelorette threw a wrench in its well-tested, very greasy works and decided that this season, which premieres on Monday, will feature not one, but two bachelorettes. Britt and Kaitlyn, who vied for the heart of Chris Soules on last season of The Bachelor, will have to face off in some sort of rose petal strewn Thunderdome while a selection of well-coiffed men choose which of the two will move forward on a journey to find love. Until the two-part season opener, though, no one knows which of the women will be the actual Bachelorette—except Amy Schumer.

While talking to noted Bachelor enthusiast Kimmel, the Trainwreck star revealed that not only did she get to go on a date with all the men (testing them out for the bachelorettes, of course), but she also absolutely knows whether Kaitlyn or Britt is the winner. Before you get too jealous of Schumer’s insider knowledge, turns out she will happily tell anyone who the winner is, NDA be damned. Don’t worry you can still be jealous of her wine glass.

TIME Television

Watch Snoop Dogg and Jimmy Fallon Make Cookies with Fake Arms

Things get messy in the kitchen

Snoop Dogg swung by The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon to talk about his new album, Bush, and things got interesting. Fallon resurrected a clip from one of Snoop’s moments on the (fake) 90s Canadian soap opera Jacob’s Patience, which has a roster of impressive stars like Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Justin Timberlake, Steve Carrell, and Will Ferrell.

While the show’s plot may not be memorable, its special effects are well known, because one of the show’s stars (Snoop, supposedly) refused to show his arms on camera. To show support, the director insisted the entire cast use fake arms. “I have to say it was pretty inconvenient,” noted Fallon.

Watch the clip from Jacob’s Patience, where the two make their best attempt at baking cookies with fake arms.

 

TIME Television

Stephen Colbert Introduces Himself As CBS’s New Late Show Host

Stephen Colbert, future host of the LATE SHOW, talks to David Letterman when Colbert visits the LATE SHOW with DAVID LETTERMAN, Tuesday, April 22 (11:35 PM-12:37 AM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. This photo is provided by CBS from the Late Show with David Letterman photo archive. Photo: Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS  ©2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved
Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS Colbert visits with Letterman in April.

Promising advertisers laughs and viewers, Colbert says he's found his real self--sort of

He shaved the beard, he wore a suit, he didn’t once address the crowd as “Nation.” He was Stephen Colbert, and he introduced himself as the future host of Late Show at CBS’s upfront presentation for advertisers in Carnegie Hall Wednesday.

Much of the talk around Colbert’s transition from The Colbert Report to taking over from David Letterman has focused on what kind of host he would be like as himself, having shed his fake-news persona. So, of course, that was the focus of the taped sketch Colbert opened with.

The piece opened on Colbert planning to go on a journey to India to discover himself, with a giant bag or gorp and a copy of Eat Pray Love. Until, that is, he became absorbed in a marathon binge-watch of CBS and lost track of time until May. Desperate, he told CBS president Les Moonves that he still didn’t know who he was. “You’re a white male comedian,” Moonves said, “with a nice haircut and a suit.”

“Oh!” said Colbert. “I’m a talk-show host!”

Did Colbert’s appearance reveal what the true Colbert, CBS host, would be like? Maybe, maybe not. He followed the taped sketch by introducing himself onstage, a la the self-aggrandizing Report host: “Please welcome the new host of the Late Show and the man who is talking right now saying these words–Stephen Colbert!”

As for Colbert’s monologue, it was arch, snarky and–typically for upfronts–TV-centric. Colbert said he’d be a good fit for the CSI network because “most of my show will be me solving crimes by zooming in on pubic hairs.” As for his relationship with advertisers–whom CBS has already been having him schmooze–he promised to deliver. “Advertisers want young eyeballs,” he said, “and not just the ones Rupert Murdoch buys on the black market.”

Of course monologues themselves require a kind of persona; the reall differences between CBS Colbert and Comedy Central Colbert won’t be apparent until we see him doing interviews, sketches, banter and all the odds and ends that make up a late night. In the meantime, Colbert hardly seemed fazed by the big stage.

“I guess the old joke is true about how you get to Carnegie Hall,” Colbert said. “You take over a late show and it turns out to be mandatory.”

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