January 3 2008

Return of the Late Night Talk Shows

Letterman and Conan's beardsAs just about every blog in the universe has done, I sat down and watched the late night talk shows last night to see how they each handled their return. I did, however, skip Jimmy Kimmel Live mainly because I’ve never watched his show, so it would be difficult for me to judge how it was.

Late Show with David Letterman – Dave came back with his “strike beard” and it made him look about 20 years older. (he likened himself to a cattle-drive cook, or a lost hiker) He was definitely on his game, and made easy transitions from his normal comedy and commentary on the strike and how he fully supports the writer’s demands. As one would expect, the humor was very strike heavy in subject matter, but it all worked and never felt heavy-handed.

Robin Williams was his normal, chaotic self. Not sure how anyone over the age of 4 still finds him funny.

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno – I don’t find Jay Leno particularly funny, and this held true last night. His humor seemed a tad more desperate and pleading. While he never bluntly said it, you could almost feel a sense of “Pity me, Dave has writers and I don’t.” I was somewhat surprised to see him do a monologue, especially when he admitted to pre-writing it. Seems the WGA is a bit surprised also as that violates the strike. He also did some comedy bits about surly stage hands which was such a Letterman rip-off it was amazing.

Mike Huckabee was a fairly bland guest, but there was a very odd moment during the Emeril Lagasse cooking segment when oregano was used in the recipe. Jay turned to his band leader, Kevin Eubanks, and asked, “Didn’t you get arrested once for buying a bag of oregano?” Seeing as Mr. Eubanks is African American, and a musician, I’m not sure which stereotype that was more directed at, but you could see that both Eubanks and Lagasse laughed nervously.

It was a passable job, but I won’t be tuning back in.

Late Night with Conan O’Brien – Conan also came back with a “strike beard”, his ven got a song sung to it by the band. It was very odd. Anyway, Conan did a monologue also, but no one seems up in arms over it for some reason. He also ha a VERY scripted looking video segment, but not sure where that falls in the rules. Overall he got into the swing of ad libbing things pretty well, and did a fine job I felt.

Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson Seeing as this show is also owned by David Letterman, they had their writers back also. Seeing how happy Ferguson was to be back, he skipped having guests and did a full hour of sketch comedy and monologues. I have to say, it was pretty damn funny, and mainly because you could tell Ferguson was aching to get back to work. His excitement was infectious and made him a joy to watch. His humor is a bit “in your face” for my tastes, but I had a good time watching him last night.

It was a mixed bag as everyone tried to find their sea legs, but the only one I felt really didn’t do a good job was Leno, but that’s probably part of my personal bias against him. I wasn’t a big late night watcher before the strike, and I doubt I will be now, but I will probably check everyone out again with the exception of Leno.

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