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Most Popular Old Late Night TV Shows

Late-night talk shows were started in the early 1940s. The earlier television show included ‘The Ed Sullivan Show,’ mainly known as ‘Toast of the Town,’ which aired from 1948 to 1971 on CBS on Sunday nights. Another show name ‘Texaco Star Theater’ hosted by Milton Berle, aired on radio from 1938 to 1949 and telecast from 1948 to 1956.

Old Late night TV shows are very popular in the United States. It is generally structured around funny monologues about the day’s news, visitor interviews, humorous sketches, and music performances. The late-night show host has to control the post primetime with their sarcastic jokes, interviews of celebrities, and by delivering monologues.

Following are some of the most popular old late-night TV shows that were and are loved by a big audience:

1. The Tonight Show with Jay Leno

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno is an American late-night TV show. Jonny Carson first hosted it, but later the hosting duties were taken over by Jay leno. This late-night TV show was first time aired on May 25th, 1992. After three days of host Johnny Carson’s retirement, the franchise launched the fourth epitome of the “Tonight Show.”

NBC Studios, which was located in Burbank, California, was the point of origin of this late-night talk show. The show was broadcasted from Monday to Friday at 11:35 p.m. according to the Pacific and Eastern Time zone.

The format of the program was basic, like an opening monologue, performance, comedy, and interviews like other TV shows. Jay also took an interview with the first president. He hosted this show for almost 17 years and retired on May 29th, 2009. After him, the show hosting was taken over by Conan O’Brien.

Due to Conan O’Brien, the rating of “The Tonight Show” was not going well. NBC wanted to bring back Leno. Jay Leno began hosting “Jay’s Show” in early 2010. NBC did some changes in the time slot by putting “Jay’s show” in “The Tonight Show” timeslot. Due to this, O’Brien opposed Leno. Leno once again took over the hosting of “The Tonight Show” for four years, and then retired for good in 2014.

Leno gained a reputation for his friendly, relaxed demeanor, strong work ethic, and ability to connect with his audience. With edgier musical acts and new comedy segments such as “Jaywalking,” in which people on the street were asked basic questions that they frequently answered incorrectly, and “Headlines,” which featured humorous newspaper headlines from across the country, he gave The Tonight Show a trendy, casual image. Under Leno’s direction, the program won four Emmys (1995–1997; 1999), and Leno received numerous honors, including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2000. By 2008, the show was attracting more than five million people every night, over 1.5 times more than its closest competitor, the Late Show. 

2. Late Night with Conan O’Brien

O’Brien was a writer on both the “Saturday Night Live” and “The Simpsons” before coming into the hosting field with the “Late Night” by David Letterman in 1993. The show’s rating was so low, but O’Brien became the most beloved Late-Night host on TV over time.

The 57-year-old Conan O’Brien became the longest time working Late Night Talk Show host when David Letterman retired in 2015. At this present day, he’s been on the air for 27 years. The on-aired episodes of the ‘Late Night with Conan O’Brien’ are 2725.

Conan O’Brien started a podcast in 2018 with the name “Conan O’Brien Needs Friends,” in which he interviews celebrities who want to become his friends. In 2020, his podcast won the iHeart podcast Award for Best Comedy Podcast.

The premise of the show was an introductory monologue from Conan O’Brien followed by several “desk bits.” These consisted of multiple small sketches, recurrent pieces, or another kind of comedy. Typically, O’Brien would play the ‘straight man’ role to the general absurdity of the comedy, treating the material or wacky nature of the sketches with sincerity. In the second and fourth segments of the show, O’Brien interviewed two celebrity guests, and in the third segment, he announced the following night’s/guests. There was also a humorous section throughout this segment and the fifth portion of the program featured a musical or stand-up comedy performance, or possibly another guest interview. The final segment of the show was usually a brief “goodnight” and the closing credits, which occasionally included a portion of a previous segment. When a guest was a “friend” of the show, comedic parts would regularly bleed into the interviews, which is quite rare for a talk show.

3. Talk Soup

Talk_Soup_logoTalk soup is a television show. Its production house was the cable network E! Talk soup was launched on January 7th, 1991. Its country of origin was the United States. The show’s theme was mainly to play funny clips of the daytime talk shows like “The Jerry Springer show” and “The Tonight Show.”

They played selected humorous clips of these types of talk shows and make fun of them. Despite making fun of talk shows, they announced the guests and topics of the upcoming broadcasts. Some talk shows like “Oprah Winfrey Show” did allow Talk Soup to take clips from their program and play on this TV show. For Outstanding Special Program, “Talk Soup” was nominated for five Daytime Emmy Awards and won an award in 1995.

This show often targets actors like Randolph Mantooth and Mario Van Peebles. The original language of the show was English. Its running time on TV was 22 minutes. Some of the names of producers of this show are Aileen Gram Moreno, Angela Gorden, Tan Evans, and Bob Taylor. There were 11 seasons of the Talk Soup.

4. The Chevy Chase Show

The Chevy Chase Show was first aired on September 7th in 1993, on Fox. The show was an American late-night show. It was canceled after five weeks of its release. The show got shut down on October 1st in 1993.

The fox originally asked Parton to host the late-night show. They promise that the show will bring five to six million viewers. Parton shut down the network and indicated for a job. Chevy Chase signed a deal of $3 million with Fox.

The day before the show’s premiere, the name and the venue where the show was documented were changed from the Aquarius Theater to Chevy Chase Theater. Fox spent $1 million on these changes.

In keeping with the format Carson and David Letterman had established, “The Chevy Chase Show” featured a house band that Chase deemed the best: the Tom Scott-led MBC Orchestra (which would later be called The Hollywood Express).

The show was produced by Chase’s firm, Cornelius Productions. The set for the program included a fish tank (visible during interviews), basketball hoops, and shelves of toys. 

5. The Pat Sajak Show

Pat Sajak hosted the Pat Sajak Show, and he also did another show named “Wheel of Fortune,” which was a famous game show of that time. The Pat Sajak Show was an American late-night television program. It launched on January 9th, 1989.

The Pat Sajak Show was broadcast on 195 stations nationwide, or almost 95% of CBS affiliates.. In addition to Pat Sajak the show features,the all-male, jazz-rock fusion Tom Scott Band , announcer and sidekick Dan Miller, a former news anchor and Sajak’s old buddy from Nashville. Sajak finished its opening week with the highest ratings.

The show was written by David S. Williger, Andy Cowan, Fred Wolf, and Kevin Mulholland. Paul Gilbert was the producer of the show. The production location of the show was CBS Television City Hollywood, California.

The running time of the show was about 60 to 90 minutes. In order to keep the talk show running, Sajak left the NBC daytime version of Wheel but remained the host of the night show. He rarely missed the show, but in 2019, he had to get emergency surgery and missed three weeks.

6. The Arsenio Hall Show

The Arsenio Hall show was an American late-night talk show. It was presented by Arsenio Hall, an American host, writer, producer, and comedian as well. There were two different epitomes of this show. The opening night of the original series was on January 3rd, 1989.

This series ran for 19 years on television and ended on May 27th, 1994. The second series of “The Arsenio Hall Show” was launched on September 9th, 2013. But the second series ran only for one season and was canceled. The final airing was on May 21st, 2014. The production house of both series was Hall’s production companies, Arsenio Hall Communications, CBS Television’s Distributions, and Paramount Domestic Television.

As this show was originated from the United States, its original language was English. The theme music composer was Arsenio hall. The total seasons of this show were six, and the total episodes were 1406. The production location was Paramount Studios and Sunset Barson Studios. Its running time was 60 minutes per episode, and the original network was Syndication.

7. Late Night with David Letterman

David Letterman hosted an American late-night talk show named “The Late-Night Show with David Letterman” that aired from 1982 to 1993. It premiered on NBC on February 1st, 1982, and concluded on June 25th, 1993.

David Letterman was hosting the ‘Late Show with David Letterman’ since August 1993 on CBS. Merrill Markoe was a head writer from 1982, Jim Downey was the head writer from 1982 – 1983, Steven O’ Donnell was the head writer from 1983 – 1992, and Rob Burnett was a head writer from 1992 – 1993.

Late Night Show with David Letterman has 11 seasons and 1819 episode. The running time of the show was about 42 – 43 minutes. His genre was comedy, talk, variety, and interviews of singers, entertainers, musicians, and other famous comedians.

8. The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

“The Daily Show” is an American program that aired late at night. It was also considered a sarcasm TV program. It was broadcasted from Monday to Thursday on Comedy Central as it was a fake news program, so it draws comedy and sarcasm from recent news stories, media organizations, and political figures.

It was launched on July 21st, 1996. This show’s running time was 22 minutes, and Craig Kilborn hosted it until December 17th, 1998. Then the hosting took over by Jon Stewart, and he made the show focus more on political and news satire.

With time, the hosts of ‘The Daily Show’ changed. After Craig Kilborn, Jon Stewart and Trevor Noah also hosted this show. The longest-running show on Comedy Central was “The Daily Show,” and it won 24 primetime Emmy Awards

Bob Mould composed the theme music for the show. It is still running, and its duration now is 44 minutes. The total number of episodes up till now is 3504.

Why are late night shows so popular?

Late-night television has been a part of American television for decades. Almost every network and streaming provider currently has its own late-night program. Late-night talk show is a television program in which the main host discusses current issues, interviews renowned guests, or does comic routines. In addition to musical performances, some episodes have unique portions in which the hosts travel to a foreign destination or play games with celebrity guests. The programs typically air between 10 p.m. and 12 a.m.

This format is especially popular in the United States, where each major television network has at least one late-night talk show.

Popularity is one of the primary reasons there are so many late-night shows. Regular viewers will turn in to a program with a personable host, humorous segments, and engaging content. They desire to be a part of the experience of hearing the most recent jokes and witnessing the most recent actions.

A second factor for the abundance of late-night programs is the number of celebrity interviews they undertake. People want to see their favorite celebs on television. They desire to learn more about them. Late-night programs provide this opportunity through interviews that range from humorous to serious.

In 2010, there was a highly publicized conflict between hosts Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien over ratings and time-slot scheduling dubbed as the late-night wars. Other late-night shows joined in on the topic, as fans of both sides protested in the streets.

Since then, however, there has been no bad blood between hosts of late-night talk shows. Most attempt to carve out their own niches in order to avoid direct competition.


The 80s and 90s were two golden eras in which several shows and movies were produced. Some shows were just average and ignored by the audience. However, the ones that gained people’s interest are still remembered today throughout the world. We tried to mention some of those most popular old late-night TV shows in this article – we hope you like the list.

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