Jimmy Fallon, James Corden, Seth Meyers, Trever Noah, john Oliver, Steven Colbert— the list of late night hosts is really long. But who is the funniest of them all? For our first Media Musings of 2017, we picked seven hosts based on viewership and content: Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, James Corden, Steve Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel and Conan O'Brian. We eliminated hosts in three rounds: pop cultural relevance, interviews, and content and presentation. It was kinda hard.
This is not an exhaustive list of every single late host.
L: So for Round 1 who are we eliminating first?
J: I think it’s between Kimmel and Conan. I appreciate self-deprecating humor, but I think I’ve watched one skit from Conan that was funny. That had more to do with Ice Cube and Kevin Hart being ridiculous. I like his leather jacket, though. Kimmel has Mean Tweets, but relatively speaking he isn’t as relevant as the other talk show hosts.
L: I would say Conan definitely isn’t a big part of pop culture, but that’s partly due to the network he’s on. Meanwhile, Kimmel is on a major network and he still falls through the cracks. You’re right. Pretty much the only thing people know about him is Mean Tweets and he’s usually not even in those segments.
J: Was Conan rumored to be changed? Kimmel does the man on the streets that make people look ridiculous. Although they’re late night veterans, I think they don’t make it to Round 2.
L: The only rumor I know about Conan is that TBS might make his show weekly. Kimmel has decent segments but his personality is lacking compared to the others. I agree with eliminating them both.
J: So that leaves Colbert, Fallon, Corden and Meyers. Who does the best interviews?
L: I really enjoy Corden’s interviews. Obviously, these celebrities are on the show to promote their most recent show or movie, but Corden always makes the interviews less of a formula by getting guests to tell hilarious stories. Just his reactions to everything make the conversation seem much more authentic.
J: It does feel like a natural conversation, kind of like the silly talks you would have with close friends. There is more of a natural banter to his interview. Seth Meyers has a balance of serious and humor in his interviews.
L: I enjoy the challenges Fallon makes his guests do during their interview segment. It brings some originality to it and they can go viral. Like Lin-Manuel Miranda’s freestyle challenge. Or the musical impressions challenge that is usually done by singers who come on his show. I honestly can’t remember anything distinct about Colbert’s interviews.
J: My problem with Fallon is he seems to have the same guests over and over again. Sometimes, his reactions feel forced.
L: There’s a lot of heated debate over whether Fallon’s laugh is actually real. But that doesn’t really bother me too much. I think just how his laugh sounds makes it seem less authentic, but his facial expression seems genuine to me. But honestly, half of the time, I’m just waiting for the challenge he’s going to present to the guest because without it, the interviews would be just the typical format.
J: Interviews really aren’t Fallon’s strong point. So who would you eliminate Fallon or Colbert?
L: I would say Colbert because I have no impression of his interview style at all. At least Fallon tries to make up for the fact that he’s not too great at interviewing.
J: Agreed. So the top three are Seth Meyers, Jimmy Fallon, and James Corden. I think Corden’s skits are better than Fallon’s. I’m just going to put that out there. He can do the sing and dance thing really well but he has more creativity in his pieces. “Take a Break” segments are hilarious and they just rely on situational irony.
L: I completely agree. Corden is just always funny to me. One of my favorite skits of his is when he and Arnold Schwarzenegger performed the best scenes in all of his movies. That skit took a lot of planning. So, Corden is great at both planned performances and just ad-libbing
J: He also has a lot of musical range but that’s what happens when you have a Tony in the bag.
L: Corden is just an all-around talented guy. I think Fallon has talent in many areas too, but he just doesn’t come off quite as naturally as Corden does. It’s like Corden doesn’t even have to try to be funny. That’s just who he is.
J: Agreed. We’re agreeing a lot today. LOL. Fallon has a ton of celebrity buddies, so that fills out the lack of authenticity. His shows do feel more like game night with two friends or two people you haven’t decided if you’re going to be friends with yet. What do you think about Meyers compared to Fallon?
L: I find myself watching Meyers for much longer than I do with Fallon. Meyers is more focused on one-liner jokes, probably a hold out from his Saturday Night Live days. But Meyers has more intelligent jokes and segments that keep me watching. He’s not always just going for an easy laugh. Because of that, it’s much easier for me to keep watching Meyers and I usually turn off Fallon if a segment is just not that funny.
J: Meyers deals with more serious subjects in general. Fallon doesn’t do serious at all, which is why the Golden Globes fell flat. Meyers can serve up a serious burn. “Donald Trump is the Meryl Streep of being thin-skinned,” is a really good example of cleverness. Meyers’s approach to comedy combines satire and sassy-pantness.
L: I enjoy his satires. One of my favorites is “The Sorkin Sketch,” which makes fun of Aaron Sorkin’s writing while discussing whether they should actually do a sketch about it. It’s a great example of the more complicated, layered comedy that Meyers does.
J: So really it’s between Meyers and Corden. What’s your pick?
L: I’m going to have to go with Corden, mostly because he consistently makes me laugh. But Meyers has a different style of comedy that definitely brings diversity to late-night.
J: Corden isn’t afraid of the difficult subjects but does light humor really well too. James Corden, Seth Meyers, and Jimmy Fallon are our top three late night show hosts.
Editor's note: This a condensed conversation.