By Faustino Galante
Late night talk shows are a staple of American television. For years, people have tuned in to watch their favorite T.V. personalities discuss current events and interview stars. The genre has evolved heavily since the days of Johnny Carson. Icons such as Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel have come to rule the industry and have managed to revolutionize it.
Last week, it was revealed that Stephen Colbert’s “The Late Show” topped “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” in 2017 Q1 ratings. According to an article published by Variety, “Colbert’s CBS late-night series averaged 3.29 million viewers per episode during the first three months of this year, while Fallon’s NBC show averaged 3.02 million.”
These statistics say a lot in regards to what Americans expect out of their late night T.V. talk shows. For years, Fallon has been on top however, as demonstrated by 2017’s first quarter ratings, this is no longer the case. Today, viewers expect certain features out of late night talk shows. Though entertaining segments and guest stars are still a priority, political commentary and benevolence have proved vital to the success of late night show hosts. As demonstrated by Stephen Colbert’s new found achievements in the ratings department, political monologues sell. Audiences have increasingly come to appreciate the inclusion of political satire and commentary in late night television.
In comparison to the other late night talk show hosts working for the “Big Three” television networks, ABC CBS and NBC, Colbert is known for including politics on his show. Many late night talk shows have utilized politically charged monologues to garner attention in the past few years. John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” has done wonders for HBO by producing comedic sequences based on contemporary political issues. The same could be said for Comedy Central’s “Daily Show with Trevor Noah” Political discourse has become a “must” for late night talk show hosts.
In an age in which Americans have become progressively obsessed with critiquing the country’s political system, late night hosts should learn from the successes of Colbert and implement the subject within their material. When it comes to comparing the ratings of the “Big Three” late night talk shows, Jimmy Kimmel has found himself in last place, having fallen significantly behind Fallon and Colbert. Ironically, Kimmel’s segments are some of the most well-known in the industry. “Mean Tweets” along with “Lie Witness News” are considered works of comedic genius by many critics. His comedic relationship with Matt Damon furthermore proves popular with audiences. If Kimmel has such great sequences, then why do his ratings fail to represent this fact?
The answer lies in Kimmel’s demeanor. He is, compared to other late night talk show hosts, very cynical and unlikable. In an interview with “Us Weekly,” former “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno criticized Kimmel stating, “[Kimmel’s humor] is mean-based. I think that’s why he’s not higher in the ratings.” To win over audiences, late night talk show hosts must be kind. Contemporary audiences truly develop a relationship with their talk show hosts. Arrogance does not sit well with them. Late night hosts must place greater emphasis on likability. Viewers of late night television have a variety of talk shows to choose from nowadays. As a result, Americans have come to expect more out of their beloved T.V. personalities. To improve their ratings, talk show hosts can no longer rely on guest stars and segments to uphold their careers.
Inclusion of political analysis is now a required part of the successful late night talk show. Furthermore, hosts have had to place a greater emphasis on likeability. “I cannot sing, dance or act; what else would I be but a talk show host?” questioned former “Late Night” host David Letterman prior to retirement. The profession of the late night star is truly one of a kind.