Late-night television has changed drastically over the past several years. Folks like Samatha Bee, Trevor Noah, and John Oliver have stepped away from straightforward celebrity interviews and musical guests. Instead, they have used their platforms to keep their viewers informed about what’s happening across the globe.
Unfortunately, late-night hasn’t always been so fun and witty. In the past, some infamous hosts have left us wondering how they even got their jobs in the first place. Here are the worst late-night TV show hosts to ever grace our television screens.
20. Alan Thicke
The late Alan Thicke is best known for his role in Growing Pains, but he also had a late-night talk show, Thicke Of The Night which he co-hosted with Arsenio Hall from 1983-1984. The show wasn’t bad. Thicke sang, danced, did great interviews, and he had great comedic flow and timing.
However, the 90-minute show just failed to take off the way executives expected it to. Instead, people loved to hate-watch it, and the ratings never justified the cost.
Next: The first woman in late-night TV
19. Joan Rivers
We love the late Joan Rivers, but apparently, late-night television audiences did not. Rivers made history as the first woman ever to host a late-night show. She often guest-hosted for Johnny Carson so in 1986; Fox saw fit to give her her own show, The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers.
Unfortunately, Rivers wasn’t able to attract a young male audience, and her show only lasted until early 1987. The show also ruined her friendship with Carson. The New York Times called the show, “Fox’s first and biggest failure.”
Next: The man you see on “Wheel of Fortune.”
18. Pat Sajak
You probably don’t remember it, but Wheel of Fortune host, Pat Sajak, once had his own late-night TV show. The Pat Sajak Show premiered Jan. 9, 1989, and it lasted until April 1990. So what was the problem? Sajak wasn’t the worst host on earth, but he didn’t expect Arsenio Hall to come swooping in around the same time, garnering everyone’s attention.
Sajak’s show was also just way too similar to The Tonight Show. Once it was canceled. the LA Times wrote,
While many never expected him to defeat [Johnny Carson], [Pat Sajak] ran into the surprise success of [Arsenio Hall], the biggest new late-night talk-show attraction in years. Hall, whose Paramount series debuted only one week before Sajak’s, not only triumphed over Sajak’s CBS show but also drew the young viewers that the network had hoped Sajak would attract.
Next: The late-night talk show host who doesn’t seem quite authentic
17. Jimmy Fallon
Jimmy Fallon is lightyears away from being as annoying as Jay Leno, but he certainly isn’t perfect. His chipper attitude and slapstick comedy often seem inauthentic, and it was even more visible during the 2016 election and after President Trump’s win. Instead of talking about the current climate of the world wittily, Fallon chose to fall back on his exhausting enthusiasm and the same shtick of placing his celebrity friends in strange situations.
Fallon is likable enough, but folks are looking for more in this day and age.
Next: A guy who should have stayed on “Total Request Live.”
16. Carson Daly
Carson Daly will forever be loved by ’90s kids who grew up watching TRL. Unfortunately, that’s where he should have stayed. His long-running and painfully dull late-night show, Last Call with Carson Daly, tragically airs at 2 a.m., so we’re not sure why NBC is still clinging on to it. After all, you’ll only see some strange angles of Daly in his leather jacket while he does interviews and gives lesser known bands a platform.
Daly continues to get passed over for the bigger shows because he just lacks the wittiness and humor that a late-night show host needs.
Next: A man who was too arrogant for TV
15. Craig Kilborn
There was a time when arrogant frat boys ruled late-night television, and that was when Craig Kilborn was shining on The Daily Show and The Late Late Show. Ridiculously popular in the ’90s, Kilborn’s arrogance literally permeated from the TV, and he adored making sexist comments. Comedy Central once suspended him when he interviewed with Esquire referring to the women he worked with as “b*tches.” Kilborn claimed that he was putting on a character when he hosted his shows, but we don’t think anyone can be that terrible and be faking it.
Luckily when he felt he’d given Hollywood all he had, Kilborn stepped away from late-night television in 2004.
Next: The comedian who found his place between two ferns.
14. Zack Galifianakis
You probably don’t remember Zack Galifianakis as a late night host, and that’s probably because his series Late World With Zach stayed on the air for a total of 9 weeks back in 2002. Galifianakis does well on television and in film, but he clearly hated every single moment of Late World and it was painfully obvious.
On one episode he even admitted, “I can’t stand doing this.” Thankfully, VH1 set the comedian free.
Next: The biggest sell-out in the late-night arena
13. Jay Leno
Jay Leno might be a staple in the history of entertainment since was the host of The Tonight Show for two decades, but that’s as much as we can give him. Called a sell-out among his comrades for pushing David Letterman out of the way and in 2009 snatching the show back from Conan O’Brien, Leno’s jokes were always drier than the Sahara desert.
Jimmy Kimmel once said of the comedian, “He totally sold out. He was a master chef who opened a Burger King.”
Next: The king of the “Real Housewives”
12. Andy Cohen
If you’re looking for substance in your late-night TV program, then you certainly don’t want to tune into Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen. The Bravo executive has thrust himself in front of the camera and delights in pillaging his guest with alcohol and getting them to spill their dirty little secrets.
Admittedly, sometimes Cohen does get some great tea, but more often than not, the petty and caddy behavior is a strange reminder of high school.
Next: A woman who is clearly over the business.
11. Chelsea Handler
Let’s just be real, we adore Chelsea Handler for her brash commentary, but we’re glad she’s closing the curtain on her Netflix series, Chelsea.
The late-night show airs three times a week, and it’s clear that Handler has lost her flow and she’s ready to move on to other ventures.
Next: The man who should have stuck with “In Living Color”
10. Keenen Ivory Wayans
Everything Keenen Ivory Wayans got right about his variety show; In Living Color, he got wrong about The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show. Airing in 1997, the late-night TV show was supposed to fill the void left by Arsenio Hall who had quit his talk show.
Instead, the show just never took off, and there was a ton of drama behind the scenes that cast a dark cloud over it.
Next: The host who apparently can do and say whatever he wants
9. Bill Maher
Bill Maher has always been abrasive. After all, his ABC series Politically Incorrect, was canceled shortly after September 11th because he said the 9/11 terrorists weren’t cowardly, but the U.S. response to the attacks was. It was horrible, but that didn’t stop HBO from scooping him up for Real Time with Bill Maher.
Since then, Maher has gone on to continue binge politically incorrect, even saying the n-word on air in 2017. It’s clear that he takes things just one step too far.
Next: The ’70s icon who was the last person to interview John Lennon.
8. Tom Snyder
Before David Letterman, there was Tom Synder. A career journalist, his late-night show Tomorrow was a staple in the ’70s. Synder was also the very last person to interview John Lennon before his death. Synder was consistent, but he was also a bit obnoxious and was typically hungover, which was extremely obvious.
He also had that quintessential ’70s look of unruly hair and long sideburns. His gruffness pretty much worked for him until NBC canceled Tomorrow and replaced him with Letterman.
Next: A late-night host who lived for drama.
7. Jack Paar
Jack Paar was the original king of late-night TV when he began on The Tonight Show in 1957. However, he was neurotic and overly dramatic. He was known to burst into tears and storm off stage when he didn’t get his way.
He later said, “I wanted it to feel like theater.” The show also had an insane run time of an hour and forty-five minutes.
Next: The talk-show host who embraces the taboo.
6. Howard Stern
There is no way around it, Howard Stern is crass and disgusting, and for whatever reason, he is able to get his guests to act along the same lines. Stern lives for name calling and talking about sex.
Stern is gifted in his ability to get his guests to open up about their most personal experiences — the more taboo, the better.
Next: A puzzling choice for late-night TV
5. Stephanie Miller
Stephanie Miller’s claim to fame was that her father, William E. Miller, was the conservative Republican vice presidential candidate in 1964. The stand-up comedian snagged her own show, The Stephanie Miller Show, in the fall of 1995, and it lasted for just 13 weeks.
The Stephanie Miller Show, the newest talk-show entry in late night, is off to a terrible start. On last week’s episodes, lame monologues segued into droll interviews with uncomfortable guests. Miller’s obsequious sidekick, James, makes Ed McMahon seem restrained. Barring a dramatic improvement, this show’s a short-timer. mugged for the camera, tossed off bad sexual jokes, and in the humor department lagged behind Hami, her one-man band.
Next: The man whose magic didn’t translate into late-night
4. Magic Johnson
It’s no secret that Magic Johnson has had a successful career outside of the NBA as a philanthropist and an HIV/AIDS activist, but he should have never ventured into the realm of late-night TV shows. The Magic Hour only lasted two months before 20th Century Fox pulled the plug.
Johnson simply wasn’t suited for the late-night arena. He had terrible diction, was overly enamored with his guest stars, and he had no comedic timing whatsoever. But at least he tried.
‘Next: The talk-show host that was both racist and unfunny
3. George Lopez
As far as late-night TV shows are concerned, George Lopez’s Lopez Tonight was pretty abysmal, and it still ran on TBS for two seasons, despite its terrible ratings. Not only was Lopez terribly unfunny, he had dreadful segments like WWE stars singing karaoke. More than that, Lopez often made extremely racist comments– which is a shame because he was the first Mexican-Ameican to host a late-night show.
When the show as canceled, Lopez had the nerve to blame racial politics, which is laughable at best.
Next: The man who should have been banned from television
2. Chevy Chase
After he made a nuisance of himself on Saturday Night Live and angered all of his co-stars, Fox thought it was a good idea to give the insufferable Chevy Chase his own late-night TV show. The Chevy Chase Show began in the fall of 1993, just as Johnny Carson went off the air and lasted only six weeks.
After Chase’s debut, Time Magazine wrote,
[Chase’s] Tuesday-night debut was the sort of disaster TV fans will recall for their grandchildren. Nervous and totally at sea, Chase tried everything, succeeded at nothing. He shot basketballs from the stage, fawned embarrassingly over guests (Goldie Hawn and Whoopi Goldberg), took pratfalls that fell flat and, in one desperate moment, boogalooed in the middle of the stage, pleading with the apathetic crowd, “Everybody, shake it!” He recycled old material shamelessly, not just from Saturday Night Live (caught in the midst of a phone call at the start of his nightly News Update) but even from The Groove Tube, the ’60s comedy revue that gave him his first break (the camera lingering mercilessly on the anchorman when the newscast is over).
Next: The angriest man on TV
1. Morton Downey Jr.
Morton Downey Jr. was a disgrace to humanity, and apparently, folks loved him for it. In October 1987, the then 55-year old started The Morton Downey Jr. Show where he spewed racism, misogyny, violence, and every other deplorable thing you can think of all over the television. Though he began on WWOR-TV, a local New York TV station, he quickly amassed a following across the country.
Downey was the poster-boy for angry white men. Thankfully, his show only lasted for two years. After the show went national, viewers, guests, and advertisers began to flee. It’s clear today that folks love to give habitual liars platforms.
Follow Aramide Tinubu on Twitter @midnightrami.
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