Late night talk shows should focus on the guest, not the host


After binging the ever-so rewatchable Austin Powers trilogy last weekend, I did what I often tend to do after watching a movie — googling/IMDBing the actors. After stumbling into a dangerous trap of YouTube suggestions, I came across an appearance that the late Verne Troyer (who plays the hilariously funny Mini Me) made back in 2009 on Jonathan Ross’ show “Friday Night with Jonathan Ross”.

Honestly, I didn’t know who Jonathan Ross was but as the interview progressed, I quickly understood the reason why. Every question he asked Troyer was about his size. Yes, we understand that he is 2’8”. It’s actually quite easy to tell. Troyer handled it like a champ, and if he was at all frustrated, he sure didn’t show it.

This was just one of many instances where talk show hosts will detract from the guest by interrupting or asking odd questions. There is nothing more annoying than listening to a guest tell a story, only for the host to pipe in with an unnecessary comment that ruins the flow of the story. This is otherwise known as the ‘Conan O’Brien.’ Maybe that’s why his run on The Tonight Show only lasted seven months.

A prime example of Conan sabotaging an interview came during a Norm Macdonald appearance, when he told his now-famous ‘moth joke’. Macdonald is my favourite comic of all time, so perhaps there is some added angst towards Conan here, but as Macdonald is in the midst of telling this well-crafted story, Conan pipes in, “how long a drive was this?” alluding to a bit earlier when Norm said he heard this joke on the cab-ride over.

If you watch a David Letterman interview, you’ll see why Letterman is regarded as one of, if not the best talk show host ever. He’ll let the guest steer the ship, while he simply guides it. Of the current talk show hosts who rule late night television – Fallon, Kimmel, Meyers, Corden, etc., I think Kimmel takes the cake when it comes to interviewing. While his monologues can get a bit too political (for me, at least) he simply asks his question, sits back and does a good job of asking follow-up questions.

Another great example of a host doing his job well is Sean Evans of the YouTube series Hot Ones. If you haven’t heard of that before, it’s basically a regular interview, except both Evans and his guest eat progressively spicy chicken wings. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t have the same level of fame as other hosts, but Evans always lets the guest shine. He does an excellent job researching (better yet, the interns at Complex do a good job researching) and it’s always fun to see when a guest says something like “wow, I forgot about that.”

At the end of the day, most people — including me — watch the shows for the guests, not the host. If one of my favourite celebrities appear on Fallon, I’ll watch it and try to ignore his exaggerated laughter. If they appear with Seth Meyers, I’ll listen to the fun SNL stories regardless of his boring tone.

These hosts have such an amazing opportunity to talk to and interview some of the most interesting people in the world on a nightly basis, they shouldn’t waste it by spending half the time talking about themselves.


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