The All-Time Greatest Late Night Talk Show Hosts

Over 18.2K Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of The All-Time Greatest Late Night Talk Show Hosts
Voting Rules
Vote up your favorite late night TV talk show hosts, from the past and present.

The all-time greatest late night talk show hosts have entertained us for years as we drift off to sleep. These hosts are charismatic, often hilarious and sometimes controversial. One thing they are not: boring. From the early days of late night television to the current crop of late night hosts, this list includes some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry.

Let's face it: All late night TV hosts are not created equal. It takes a special skill set to continually present us with fresh, interesting information. We like our witty celebrities and comedians, so is it any wonder that some names on this list are also among the funniest people of all time? Stephen Colbert, Conan O'Brien, and Jon Stewart are all excellent examples of hosts who possess that rare wit and the ability to think quickly (because in late night, you never know what will happen).

Certainly, one of the most most famous late night talk show hosts of all time, Johnny Carson, was one of the most intelligent, likable and genuinely funny people ever to grace the small screen. He is one of the beloved old late night talk show hosts.

If it seems like the late night TV talk show hosts field is dominated by men, it is, but there are a few notable exceptions. Comedian Chelsea Handler carved out a nifty little niche for herself with her former E! show Chelsea Lately. And back in the day, Joan Rivers was actually a really great regular Tonight Show permanent fill-in host. 

Vote up the late night talk show hosts you enjoy most, and vote down the ones that you believe are the most annoying TV hosts ever. Then check back to see if your favorites topped our list! 

Most divisive: Trevor Noah
Ranked by
  • Conan O'Brien
    Boston, Massachusetts, USA
    10,929 votes

    Conan O'Brien, with his distinct pompadour and quick wit, has undoubtedly carved out his own niche within the world of late-night television. Over the years, as the host of shows such as Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and Conan on TBS, he has showcased his unparalleled comedic timing and an endearing awkwardness that has consistently struck a chord with television viewers of all stripes. Notably, his Clueless Gamer series has become an iconic moment in the gaming world, proving that a late-night host can still break new ground and maintain relevance in an ever-evolving landscape.

  • Johnny Carson
    Corning, Iowa, USA
    6,404 votes

    Johnny Carson, the undisputed king of late-night television, helmed The Tonight Show for an impressive three decades. His genuine warmth, instinctive knack for conversation, and irreverent humor made him a beloved figure for countless viewers. Whether chatting with glamorous Hollywood stars or engaging in the show's legendary send-up of Carnac the Magnificent, Carson's gentle charisma was simply unmatched, and his influence on the genre can be felt to this very day.

  • David Letterman
    Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
    6,763 votes

    David Letterman, known for his iconic gap-toothed grin and acerbic wit, completely reinvented the late-night scene during his tenure on Late Night with David Letterman, as well as The Late Show with David Letterman. His sardonic humor, laced with hints of absurdism, and his ever-present irony shattered the previous mold for late-night hosts and paved the way for a new generation. From enlisting celebrities to participate in the now-infamous Top Ten Lists to daringly engaging Oprah in a super-sized scandal, his fearlessness and unmistakable originality secured Letterman's place in television history.

  • Craig Ferguson
    Glasgow, Scotland, UK
    6,207 votes

    Craig Ferguson, a breath of fresh air amongst the host of talk show stalwarts, injected his quirky musings into the conversation through his time on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. With his Scottish charm, self-deprecating humor, and his capable sidekick Geoff Peterson, the animatronic skeleton, Ferguson's approach to the late-night format directly contradicted conventions while creating a loyal fanbase. His intimate and consistently amusing interviews, as well as his hilarious and candid monologues, set him apart in a world of cookie-cutter hosts.

  • Graham Norton
    Clondalkin, Dublin, Ireland
    4,309 votes

    Graham Norton brings a uniquely British flair to the land of late-night television as host of The Graham Norton Show, combining raucous humor with sharp wit. As he deftly navigates his signature chat show format with a panoply of celebrity guests, Norton artfully elicits both humor and insight. From riotous stories to irreverent games, he has crafted a staple of entertaining, often eyebrow-raising, moments that have made him a favorite among the late-night crowd.

  • Jon Stewart
    New York, New York, USA
    5,608 votes

    Jon Stewart, a bastion of political satire and tongue-in-cheek commentary, forever altered the face of late-night television with his 16-year tenure on The Daily Show. His keen intellect, lightning-fast wit, and his unapologetic cynicism were a perfect recipe that inspired both thought and laughter. Whether skewering politicians or holding court with celebrity guests, Stewart's influence over the genre and the minds of a generation is undeniable.