For years, late night television has been known as a genre of television that puts America to sleep with a smile on their face. The people of America have their opinions on who has the best late night television talk show. The three popular choices, in no certain order, are Jay Leno, David Letterman, and Conan O’Brien. All three have varying differences in the aspects of a one-hour show.
The shows all open with what is called a monologue. This is the part of the show that showcases each of the hosts’ stand-up comedy abilities. David Letterman focuses much of his monologue on the happenings going on in New York City. Topics include sports, city cleanliness, and local politics. His monologue is usually about ten minutes long, which leaves a large amount of time available to comedy and interviews.
Jay Leno has a more monologue based show. His monologue lasts about twenty minutes and usually covers politics, current events, and celebrity news. Much of his comedy deals with scandal, Hollywood, and people’s lives in California. Jay often turns to his band director Kevin while doing his monologue. He can be seen conversing with Kevin on the jokes that he is telling. Kevin will laugh at almost all of Jay’s jokes. His laughing will usually serve as a catalyst for the audience to start laughing.
Conan O’Brien’s monologue is quite different from that of Jay Leno and David Letterman. Conan makes a few jokes about what is going on in the news and only stays out there for about five minutes. He uses himself as the butt of his jokes, and admits to the audience that his jokes are pathetic. He uses this technique and often gets a sympathy laugh.
Comedy skits are the next part of the show. It’s used as a transition from monologue to interview. David Letterman does all kinds of skits, and many involve the audience and people on the streets of New York City. This is the time of the show when Dave does the famous "Top Ten List." The top ten is a part of the show that Dave always does, every night. When going out into the city, Dave uses people on his staff and visits the establishments around the Ed Sullivan Theater. He gets people to do all kinds of crazy antics and interviews some interesting characters. Dave rarely leaves his desk for the rest of the show.
Jay Leno likes to use bits taped at an earlier time in his comedy skits. He goes out and knocks on the doors of residents in Burbank suburbs and surprises them. Jay will ask them current event questions or will have them showcase some kind of talent they have. Other popular skits are "Headlines," which displays actual funny newspaper headlines, and "New Products," where household products are modified for comic relief.
Conan O’brien uses this time of the show to shine. This is usually the funniest part of his show. His "Staring Contest" skit has become a popular comedy bit. Conan and his sidekick Andy have a staring contest that Conan always wins. Disgusting things occur behind Conan’s back where only Andy can see. Eventually, something so disturbing occurs and Andy breaks his concentration.
David Letterman and Jay Leno are able to draw the bigger, bankable celebrities. The primary reason behind this is the time slot. Both Letterman and Leno are on earlier than Conan. As a result, celebrities tend to do the earlier shows so that more of America sees them. The celebrities Conan interviews are usually up and coming in their business. Conan then relies heavily on making comedy a large part of his interview. Letterman and Leno guide the guests along in their interview, and Conan jokes around with his guests more.
All three in different ways use comedy. Jay Leno uses his comedy for much of the television show, but there are serious points during interviews. David Letterman’s comedy is lightly used throughout the whole show. His interviews do allow the guest to get across a point when that is the goal of the guest. Conan O’brien relies on comedy for every part of his show. Sitting down in ffront of the television and watching Conan almost always guarantees a full hour of laughter. From his monologue filled with bad jokes, to his comedy skits and ability to come up with instant comedy with his guests. His whole show relies heavily on his ability to incorporate his comical whit into all aspects of the show. Based on comedy, Conan is superior in his efforts followed by David Letterman. Jay Leno can be seen lagging behind, a distant third.