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The Best Late Night Talk Shows of All Time 

Ranker TV
Originally by
Updated June 18, 2020 5.6k votes 623 voters 8.3k views 54 items

What are the best late night talk shows you always stay up to watch? This list compiles the names of the greatest late night talk shows in the history of television. Everyone knows that each host is different for every franchise; take the Tonight Show franchise, for instance. The Tonight Show with Jay Leno is a very different show from The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien. Additionally, we all know that each show by the same host is different too; The Jon Stewart Show on MTV is vastly different from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central (owned by MTV), not to mention The Daily Show with Trevor Noah or even with Craig Kilborn.


Screw soap operas -- "late night talk" is the most drama-filled genre in all of television. Read a book by Bill Carter to hear the secrets behind the greatest late night talk shows (and the worst) ever aired. Even with a rich history that dates back to Steve Allen, there is always breaking news on the late night talk show front. Conan births Pete Holmes, Fallon usurps Leno, and Seth Meyers usurps Fallon. But will Kimmel usurp Letterman? And if you love these shows, check out the current late-night lineup.

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1
The Tonight Show Starrin... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Late Night Talk Shows of All Time
1962

Actors: Johnny Carson, Ed McMahon, Skitch Henderson

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson is a talk show hosted by Johnny Carson under The Tonight Show franchise from October 1, 1962 through May 22, 1992. It originally aired during late-night. ...more

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#195 of 590 The Best TV Theme Songs of All Time #112 of 391 TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate #7 of 158 Shows With The Best Freakin' Series Finales Of All Time

2
Late Night with Conan O'... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Late Night Talk Shows of All Time
1993

Actors: Conan O'Brien, Andy Richter, Joel Godard

Late Night with Conan O'Brien is an American late-night talk show hosted by Conan O'Brien that aired 2,725 episodes on NBC between 1993 and 2009. The show featured varied comedic material, ...more

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#226 of 388 The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years #108 of 463 The Funniest TV Shows of All Time #72 of 174 The TV Shows Most Loved by Hipsters

3
Late Night with David Le... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Late Night Talk Shows of All Time
1982

Actors: David Letterman, Paul Shaffer, Jerry Seinfeld

Late Night with David Letterman is a nightly hour-long comedy talk show on NBC that was created and hosted by David Letterman. It premiered in 1982 as the first incarnation of the Late Night ...more

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#201 of 388 The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years #172 of 305 The Greatest Sitcoms in Television History #153 of 219 The TV Shows with the Best Writing

4
The Late Late Show with ... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Late Night Talk Shows of All Time
2005

Actors: Craig Ferguson, Shadoe Stevens, Josh Robert Thompson

The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson is an American late-night talk show hosted by Scottish American comedian Craig Ferguson, who was the third regular host of the Late Late Show franchise. It ...more

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#300 of 388 The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years #163 of 571 TV Shows Canceled Before Their Time #85 of 219 The TV Shows with the Best Writing

5
Late Show with David Let... is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Late Night Talk Shows of All Time
2011

Actors: David Letterman, Paul Shaffer, Alan Kalter

Late Show is an American late-night television talk and variety show on CBS. Late Show with David Letterman first aired in August 1993 with host David Letterman, who previously hosted Late Night ...more

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#258 of 388 The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years #83 of 158 Shows With The Best Freakin' Series Finales Of All Time #434 of 1,318 The Best Guilty Pleasure TV Shows

6
Conan is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Late Night Talk Shows of All Time
2010

Actors: Conan O'Brien, Ginnifer Goodwin, Andy Richter

Conan is a late-night talk show airing each Monday through Thursday on TBS in the United States. The hour-long show premiered on November 8, 2010, and is hosted by writer, comedian and performer ...more

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#1,084 of 1,318 The Best Guilty Pleasure TV Shows #16 of 53 The Best TV Shows Starring SNL Alumni #21 of 49 The Greatest Variety Shows in TV History

7
The Colbert Report is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Late Night Talk Shows of All Time
2005

Actors: Stephen Colbert, Jay Katsir, Jon Stewart

The Colbert Report is an American late-night talk and news satire television program hosted by Stephen Colbert that aired on Comedy Central from October 17, 2005 to December 18, 2014 for 1,447 ...more

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#563 of 807 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #137 of 388 The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years #130 of 219 The TV Shows with the Best Writing

8
The Late Show with Steph... is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Late Night Talk Shows of All Time
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert 2015

Actors: Stephen Colbert, Jonathan Batiste, Stay Human

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS, 2015) is an American late-night talk show hosted by Stephen Colbert.
9
The Tonight Show with Co... is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Late Night Talk Shows of All Time
2009

Actors: Conan O'Brien, Andy Richter, Jerry Vivino

The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien is an American late-night talk show that featured Conan O'Brien as host from June 1, 2009 to January 22, 2010 as part of NBC's long-running Tonight Show ...more

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#546 of 1,318 The Best Guilty Pleasure TV Shows #3 of 14 The Most Memorable TV Host Farewells

10
Last Week Tonight with J... is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Late Night Talk Shows of All Time
2014

Actors: John Oliver, David Kaye, Noel MacNeal

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO, 2014) is an American late-night talk and news satire television program hosted by comedian John Oliver. The half-hour-long show takes a satirical look at ...more

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#336 of 807 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #156 of 463 The Funniest TV Shows of All Time #26 of 391 TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate

11
Jimmy Kimmel Live! is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Late Night Talk Shows of All Time
2003

Actors: Jimmy Kimmel, Cleto Escobedo III, Dicky Barrett

Jimmy Kimmel Live! is an American late-night talk show, created and hosted by James "Jimmy" Kimmel, and transmitted on ABC. The nightly hour-long show made its debut on January 26, ...more

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#230 of 463 The Funniest TV Shows of All Time #1,062 of 1,318 The Best Guilty Pleasure TV Shows #102 of 138 The Funniest Shows To Watch When You're Stoned

12
The Daily Show is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Late Night Talk Shows of All Time
1996

Actors: Jon Stewart, Trevor Noah, Hasan Minhaj, John Oliver, Stephen Colbert, + more

The Daily Show (Comedy Central, 1999) is an American late-night talk and news satire television program. Described as a fake news program, the show draws its comedy and satire from recent news ...more

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Jon Stewart's Most Entertaining Feuds Ever #569 of 807 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #279 of 393 The Best TV Shows to Rewatch

13
The Graham Norton Show ... is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Late Night Talk Shows of All Time
2007
The Graham Norton Show is a British comedy chat show broadcast on BBC One in the United Kingdom. It was shown on BBC Two from February 2007 to May 2009 and has been on BBC One since October ...more
14
Ranker Video
2014

Actors: Jimmy Fallon, The Roots, Steve Higgins

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon is an American late-night talk show hosted by Jimmy Fallon on NBC. The show premiered on February 17, 2014 and is produced by Broadway Video and Universal ...more

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The Best Musical Guests on 'The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon' in 2020 #199 of 463 The Funniest TV Shows of All Time #28 of 64 The Best Feel-Good TV Shows

15
The Late Late Show with ... is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Late Night Talk Shows of All Time
2015

Actors: James Corden, Reggie Watts

The Late Late Show with James Corden (CBS, 2015) is an American late-night talk show hosted by James Corden. The fourth iteration of The Late Late Show, the talk show features popular segments, ...more

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#5 of 69 The Greatest Talk Shows of All Time #1 of 11 The Best Talk Shows in LA

16
Late Night with Seth Mey... is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Late Night Talk Shows of All Time
2014
Late Night with Seth Meyers is an American late-night talk show that airs at 12:37 am Eastern/11:37 pm Central on NBC in the United States, Monday through Thursday. The hour-long show premiered ...more

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#892 of 1,318 The Best Guilty Pleasure TV Shows #7 of 53 The Best TV Shows Starring SNL Alumni #17 of 69 The Greatest Talk Shows of All Time

17
Tom Snyder On CNBC is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Late Night Talk Shows of All Time
looksharp added Tom Snyder On CNBC
18
The Arsenio Hall Show is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Late Night Talk Shows of All Time
1989

Actors: Bill Murray, Arsenio Hall, Burton Richardson, Michael Wolff

The Arsenio Hall Show is an American late-night talk show created and hosted by Arsenio Hall. There are two separate programs that have been titled The Arsenio Hall Show, both airing in ...more

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#103 of 510 The Best Shows of the 1980s, Ranked #161 of 187 The Greatest Shows of the 1990s, Ranked #48 of 69 The Greatest Talk Shows of All Time

19
The Jon Stewart Show is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Late Night Talk Shows of All Time
1993

Actors: Jon Stewart, Howard Feller

The Jon Stewart Show is a late night talk show hosted by comedian Jon Stewart. The program premiered on MTV in 1993 as a thirty-minute daily program. At the end of its first season, MTV's ...more
20
The Dick Cavett Show is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Late Night Talk Shows of All Time
1968

Actors: Leigh French

The Dick Cavett Show was the title of several talk shows hosted by Dick Cavett on various television networks, including: ABC daytime originally titled This Morning ABC prime time, Tuesdays, ...more

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#153 of 249 The Very Best Shows That Aired in the 1960s #33 of 49 The Greatest Variety Shows in TV History #18 of 69 The Greatest Talk Shows of All Time

21
The Tonight Show with Ja... is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Late Night Talk Shows of All Time
1992

Actors: Jay Leno, Kevin Eubanks, Edd Hall

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno is an American late-night talk show hosted by Jay Leno that initially aired from May 25, 1992 to May 29, 2009, and resumed production on March 1, 2010 until its ...more

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#424 of 1,318 The Best Guilty Pleasure TV Shows #4 of 14 The Most Memorable TV Host Farewells #49 of 69 The Greatest Talk Shows of All Time

22
Real Time with Bill Mahe... is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Late Night Talk Shows of All Time
2003

Actors: Bill Maher, Arianna Huffington, Andrew Sullivan

Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO, 2003) is an American talk show series created by Bill Maher. Bill Maher hosts a panel of guests who discuss current events in politics and the media.

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#334 of 388 The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years #287 of 391 TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate #1,243 of 1,318 The Best Guilty Pleasure TV Shows

23
Tonight Starring Steve A... is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Late Night Talk Shows of All Time
1954
Tonight Starring Steve Allen is a talk show hosted by Steve Allen. It was the first version of what eventually became known as The Tonight Show. Tonight was the first late-night talk show, as ...more
24
Late Night with Jimmy Fa... is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Late Night Talk Shows of All Time
2009

Actors: Jimmy Fallon, The Roots, Steve Higgins

Late Night with Jimmy Fallon is an American late-night talk show that aired weeknights at 12:35 am Eastern/11:35 pm Central on NBC in the United States. The hour-long show, which premiered on ...more

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#237 of 388 The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years #1,080 of 1,318 The Best Guilty Pleasure TV Shows #7 of 69 The Greatest Talk Shows of All Time

25
Dennis Miller is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Late Night Talk Shows of All Time
looksharp added 2004

Actors: Dennis Miller

CNBC Dennis Miller was the third tv talk show series hosted by comedian Dennis Miller. This series was on for 2 seasons from 2004 to 2005 on CNBC.