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The All-Time Greatest Late Night Talk Show Hosts

Updated May 29, 2020 91.3k votes 14.5k voters 190.8k views41 items

List RulesLate night TV talk show hosts, 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: They are never 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. Vote for the late night talk show hosts you enjoy the most, and vote down any that you believe are the most annoying TV hosts ever. You can also rerank this list in any order you like, and, if you have a favorite host who isn't listed: add them!

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). And certainly, one of the most most famous late night talk show hosts of all time, Johnny Carson, was one of the most intelligent, likeable and genuinely funny people ever to grace the small screen.

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 has carved out a nifty little niche for herself with her E! show 'Chelsea Lately.' And back in the day, Joan Rivers was actually a really great regular 'Tonight Show' permanent fill-in host. Unfortunately, Rivers' own late night TV talk show, 'The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers,' (circa 1986 on FOX), didn't fare well at all.

And then, of course, you've got the highly publicized and totally ridiculous late night TV host drama: 'The Tonight Show' showdown involving Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien. Late night television is big, big business, and the resulting conflicts that arise certainly reflect that fact, just check out the current late-night lineup for more proof.

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  • Conan O'Brien1
    6,710
    2,400

    Conan O'Brien

    Conan, Late Night with Conan O'Brien
    Photo Via: Shutterstock
  • Johnny Carson2
    3,328
    1,503

    Johnny Carson

    The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Space Ghost
  • David Letterman3
    3,302
    1,854

    David Letterman

    Everybody Loves Raymond, The Drew Carey Show
  • Graham Norton4
    2,107
    1,164

    Graham Norton

    Let's Dance for Comic Relief, The Graham Norton Show
    Photo Via: Shutterstock
  • Stephen Colbert5
    3,206
    2,108

    Stephen Colbert

    The Daily Show, The Colbert Report
    Photo Via: Shutterstock
  • Craig Ferguson6
    2,873
    1,951

    Craig Ferguson

    The Drew Carey Show, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson
    Photo Via: Shutterstock
  • Jon Stewart7
    2,672
    1,819

    Jon Stewart

    The Daily Show, The Colbert Report

    Leaving the Daily Show in 2015  

    Photo Via: Shutterstock
  • John Oliver8
    2,412
    1,642

    John Oliver

    The Daily Show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
    Photo Via: Shutterstock
  • James Corden9
    2,039
    1,529

    James Corden

    Gavin & Stacey, Gavin and Stacey
    Photo Via: Shutterstock
  • Ed Sullivan10
    1,128
    833

    Ed Sullivan

    The Ed Sullivan Show
  • Jimmy Kimmel11
    2,808
    2,803

    Jimmy Kimmel

    Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Crank Yankers
    Photo Via: Shutterstock
  • Trevor Noah12
    1,283
    1,034

    Trevor Noah

  • Steve Allen13
    840
    801

    Steve Allen

    The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The Tonight Show
  • Dick Clark14
    292
    237

    Dick Clark

    Let's Make a Deal, Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction
  • Seth Meyers15
    1,249
    1,382

    Seth Meyers

    Saturday Night Live, Late Night with Seth Meyers
    Photo Via: Shutterstock
  • Larry King16
    516
    467

    Larry King

    Larry King Live
  • Dick Cavett17
    699
    704

    Dick Cavett

    The Dick Cavett Show, Time Was
    Photo Via: Shutterstock
  • Drew Carey18
    518
    511

    Drew Carey

    The Drew Carey Show, Whose Line Is It Anyway? (UK)
  • Jimmy Fallon19
    2,935
    3,479

    Jimmy Fallon

    30 Rock, Saturday Night Live
    Photo Via: Shutterstock
  • Jack Paar20
    591
    655

    Jack Paar

    The Jack Paar Tonight Show, Bank on the Stars
  • Space Ghost21
    112
    104

    Space Ghost

    Space Ghost Coast to Coast
  • Merv Griffin22
    108
    102

    Merv Griffin

    Jeopardy!, Wheel of Fortune
  • Jay Leno23
    1,553
    2,778

    Jay Leno

    The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
    Photo Via: Shutterstock
  • Arsenio Hall24
    634
    950

    Arsenio Hall

    The Real Ghostbusters, The Apprentice
    Photo Via: Shutterstock
  • Dennis Miller25
    537
    744

    Dennis Miller

    Monday Night Football, Dennis Miller Live
    Photo Via: Shutterstock