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On the Late Show: Talk Show Hosts in Movies

On the Late Show: Talk Show Hosts in Movies (photo)

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This week, the world of late night television experiences its biggest shakeup in years, as Jimmy Fallon takes the reigns of NBC’s “Late Night” from Conan O’Brien, who, at the start of June, will take over “The Tonight Show” from Jay Leno, who moves on to start his own talk show at 10pm. With talk show hosts on our minds these days, it seemed like a good time to look back and see how they’ve fared on the silver screen.

Qualifications for inclusion were simple: the talk show host in question has to be best known — and most successful — in their show business career as a talk show host. Craig Ferguson, current host of CBS’ “Late Late Show,” carved out a long and successful career as an actor and director of such films as “The Big Tease” before accepting the slot after David Letterman, so he was out. We also disqualified any movie in which the potential subject played him or herself. That meant no entry on Jerry Springer’s turn as “Jerry Springer Farrelly” in “Ringmaster” (Thank God). Of course, even when these men (and one woman) were “acting,” they were often just doing their TV schtick anyway, as cops or stuffed monkey salesmen behaving a lot more like comedians than men of their alleged profession or stature.

Herrrrrre’s the movies. For full effect, say the last sentence like Ed McMahon.

03022009_LenoCollisionCourse.jpgJay Leno
Host of “The Tonight Show” (1992-2009)
Appearing in “Collision Course” (1989)
Directed by Lewis Teague

Jay Leno may be playing Detroit P.D. Detective Tony Costas in the buddy action comedy “Collision Course,” but he looks an awful lot like Los Angeles talk show host Jay Leno. Like the real-life Leno, Costas’ wardrobe is steeped with denim, and a plot involving a stolen prototype for a new sports car called the Starburst (that comes in Orange, Lemon, Cherry, or Strawberry) plays to the automobile milieu that’s a such a key part of his “Tonight Show” persona. Even with all these personal touchstones, Leno still fumbles the role. It doesn’t help that with a physique doughier than a Pillsbury spokesman and a running gait that resembles Barbaro after he broke his leg at the Preakness in 2006, Leno may be the least convincing badass cop of all time. He’s teamed with Pat Morita, a Japanese policeman searching for the same prototype plans, and together they get over their racial hatred while teaching each other the joys of ignoring Miranda rights and murdering suspects in cold blood. It’s too bad Leno and Morita don’t acknowledge the fact that they’re the worst cops ever — some scenes would make great material for a late night monologue. “Now what you want to do when you find a possible murder weapon is to cover it with your own fingerprints while destroying as much of the physical evidence the killer left behind as possible!”

03022009_LettermancABINbOY.jpgDavid Letterman
Host of “Late Night with David Letterman” (1982-1993); “The Late Show with David Letterman” (1993-Present)
Appearing in “Cabin Boy” (1994)
Directed by Adam Resnick

What better way for David Letterman to celebrate his leap from NBC to CBS’s “The Late Show” in 1993 than a bit part in Chris Elliot’s bizarre magnum opus “Cabin Boy”? Written and directed by “Late Night” scribe Adam Resnick, and starring frequent contributor Elliot, Letterman’s appearance ended up being one of the most famous cameos of all time, at least among talk show junkies. Appearing early on as a salty seaside merchant with a healthy disdain for Elliot’s “fancy lad,” he poses the evocative question, “Would you like to buy a monkey?” while holding the stuffed simian aloft. He later immortalized the query during his Oscar hosting gig, which unearthed auditions of Paul Newman and Madonna putting their own unique spin on the line. (Watch for yourself here.) Clearly not ascribing to the “Method” school of acting, Letterman delivers it with his usual ironic bemusement, and aside from the newsboy cap, puts little effort into fitting into the wonderfully strange seafaring mythos of the movie. He’s still just Dave, the wisecracking, non-sequitur loving man-child, wandering on set with a chewed-up cigar in his mouth and a knit monkey in his hand.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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