The New Legend of Late Night
Media professionals know how to effectively balance what kind of ratings a show will receive with its production costs. Nowhere is this truer than in the comedy department, where shows made to make others laugh are dwarfed by big-time hospital dramas or cop shows. The success of shows like Two and a Half Men are offset by Charlie Sheen’s $825K-per-show salary while shows like America’s Funniest Home Videos cost virtually nothing to produce because the audience provides all the material.
Then, there’s the golden mean of comedic television, the late night talk show, where big bands, big guests and big laughs lure viewers. In the past, the show’s hosts were also larger than life, but look beyond the land of greats like Jack Paar, Steve Allen and Johnny Carson, and you’ll find a revolving door of hosts who take on the role of show manager rather than ringmaster of a three-ring circus. These hosts, like Jimmy Fallon and Conan O’Brien, seem happy to be along for the ride.
A new crop of late-night hosts are poised to take the throne this fall with George Lopez, Wanda Sykes and Mo’Nique starring in late night roles on TBS, Fox and BET, respectively. These networks have begun advertising well in advance to prove to potential viewers that their host will be smart, edgy and “tell it like it is,” whatever “it” may be.
In a way, late night has become a type of sanctuary for these forgotten humorists to revive their fading careers. (Really, Fox? Wanda Sykes hasn’t been funny since Ross Perot was a legitimate presidential candidate.) With Jay Leno moving to primetime and David Letterman aging and struggling with serious issues of his own, who will become the next king of late night? Craig Ferguson? Jimmy Kimmel? Maybe Arsenio Hall will come out of retirement, but I don’t think we could get that lucky.
Nevertheless, look no further, TV junkies. Your savior has arrived, and he’s wearing a ridiculous looking backward hat and a big stupid grin. I’m submitting a blueprint for The Obscenely Late at Night Show with Matty Kaznel to you, readers.
Late night needs a few changes to pull in a younger audience who will stick around for years to come. Guys like Letterman did a lot for the 40-and-over crowd, but what group is usually awake from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m.? Other than obsessive stargazers, the answer is college students. Although the average college student is probably watching South Park, studying or jamming to Dave Matthews Band during that time, I believe if we bring those interests into our program, it will be a success.
First, I would make DMB the show’s official house band. I feel I could bring out Dave Matthews’ comedic side and turn him into the wisecracking co-host I know he could be. Acceptable alternates include O.A.R., Pearl Jam and Metallica. (Come on, how cool would it be if the show opened with “Master of Puppets” every night?)
Second, I would hire Trey Park and Matt Stone to write South Park for our show. Instead of running a full 30-minute episode, it would be broken up into three sections spread throughout the show, the way The Simpsons aired on The Tracy Ullman Show. The big difference is that South Park already has a huge, loyal audience. We get South Park, we get their viewers.
Finally, no great late night talk show is complete without a truly epic announcer, the disembodied voice that brings out the guests and goes back and forth with the host on occasion. After a lengthy search, I’ve decided to go with the legendary Michael Buffer. If you don’t know who he is, just search “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble” online and see what comes up.
The rest of the show would follow a similar format (guests, crowd interaction, etc.), only much better. I’m a confident guy, what can I say? But if my dream show can’t be made, I have just one request: give Bruce Campbell his own show. He would be so good at it. Instead of giving jobs to failed actors or comedians who think they’re good, why not give a job to someone comfortable with his own B-rated star power? Make it happen, late night. Make it happen.