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DID YOU READ

The top 10 legends of late night

LATE-NIGHT-LEGENDS

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The late night comedy talk show format is an institution nearly as old as television itself, one of the few that remain from those heady early days of visual media in every home. A brightened-up version of that same style is used for all sorts of daytime shows as well, but there’s some enduring charm about comedians set loose during the waning hours of the day, or more dangerously, the wee hours of the morning. For the most part, it can be a grind, but there’s always that sense that anything can happen when writers get slaphappy or guests go far off script – all of which takes a strong personality to emcee the proceedings and bring it all together. Here are ten of the most legendary late night hosts ever to grace the small screen.


1. Steve Allen

You have to start with the man who started it all. In 1953, this intellectual musical-comedy showman joined NBC and started “Tonight,” a 1.5 hour talk-variety show with future “Match Game” host Gene Rayburn as his announcer which he based on a local New York show he’d been doing. Everybody doing the late night talk show schtick owes a debt to Allen and his innovations, not to mention his talent for wordplay. On the first show, he made a joke about the length of the broadcast, quipping “I want to give you the bad news first: this program is going to go on forever…” Little did he know how prescient he was – nearly 60 years later, it’s still on the air, and his declaration that it was not a spectacular, but rather monotonous is eerily apt these days.


2. Jack Paar

In 1957, Allen left “Tonight” to work on his Sunday evening variety show competing with Ed Sullivan, and in July of that year, Paar became the new host, and the tone shifted into something else until 1962. With Hugh Downs as his announcer, Paar’s show was more cerebral, as he was not really much of a showman. He was a conversationalist and a storyteller with a penchant for getting particularly emotional – he once walked off the show in mid-broadcast for about a month after a joke he told was censored. He had public feuds as well, with people like Ed Sullivan and noted muckraker Walter Winchell. Eventually, the workload was too much for Paar, and he moved to prime time, handing off the show to one of his guest hosts –a guy you may have heard of.


3. Johnny Carson

The reigning king of late night for 30 years, Carson set the standard and inspired an entire generation of comics to prove their worth to him, because if you could get a stand-up spot on his “Tonight Show” and get the rare call to come chat with him at the desk, your career was made. He defeated all comers, survived all sorts of changes in popular culture, and he’s still the model everyone else aspires to be. He could take the lead and be hilarious if need be, and he was never hesitant to lean back and play straight-man or support – whichever made his guests come off the best. His monologues were the last thing a grateful nation wanted to hear before going to sleep each night. You just can’t touch this guy.


4. Dick Cavett

This wry intellectual got his start by slipping monologue jokes to Jack Paar while working as a gofer for TIME Magazine, and Paar then brought him on board as a talent coordinator for “Tonight.” He left the show not too long into Carson’s reign to try his hand at his own show – and while his late night effort lasted only five years on ABC, but enough wild controversy and strikingly strange things happened to merit a legendary status. Be it Salvador Dali throwing an anteater into Lillian Gish’s lap, or Norman Mailer getting drunk and having it out with Gore Vidal, or Marlon Brando post-Oscar-rejection, or a Vietnam war debate with John Kerry that earned the ire of President Nixon – hell, a man even died on stage with him once. Through it all, his clever wit has served him well.


5. Tom Snyder

The time slot after “The Tonight Show” was opened up in 1973, when Snyder’s “The Tomorrow Show” began. He preferred a pared down style with no audience, band or any of the usual trappings. Instead, he would just have a guest on, sit down and have a long, in-depth conversation full of actual human moments rather than scripted banter. He was John Lennon’s last televised interview during the whole deportation debacle, and he was “Weird Al” Yankovic’s first television appearance ever – not to mention his notorious moments with both Johnny Rotten and with KISS. Eventually, the show was canceled to make way for David Letterman’s new show, but Dave always idolized him, and once he moved to CBS, he brought Snyder in as the first host of The Late Late Show in 1995. His laugh could bowl you over, and his sentiment would make you think, and he’d always tell us to “fire up a colortini, sit back, relax, and watch the pictures, now, as they fly through the air.”

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.