By Paula Hendrickson
Forget the long-standing feud between late-night kings Jay Leno and David Letterman, and the whole debacle when NBC ousted Conan O’Brien from The Tonight Show and brought Leno back. The real excitement in the late-night arena right now comes courtesy of two guys named Jimmy and a Scottish import named Craig.
Jimmy Kimmel Live! (weeknights at 11 p.m. on ABC) has produced an innumerable number of hysterical star-studded taped bits for several years. But recently, Kimmel managed to get Oprah Winfrey to play along. In an extended clip, Kimmel pitches several show ideas to Oprah for her OWN television network, including the ridiculously funny “Book Club Fight Club” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEfNFrMBkBo).
Another recent classic from Kimmel and company was his Oscar night movie trailer parody, “Movie: The Movie,” with cameos by everyone from Oscar winners George Clooney and Tom Hanks to Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3NwB9PLxss).
The reason audiences respond so well to Kimmel’s clips is simple: Who doesn’t enjoy watching A-list celebrities poke fun at their own images?
After Jimmy Fallon settled in as host of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (airing weeknights at 11:35 p.m. on NBC), things really took off with recurring TV show parodies — including 7th Floor West, Real Housewives of Late Night, Late and Jersey Floor — to musical mash-ups with Fallon impersonating the likes of Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Eddie Vedder and Bruce Springsteen. (Not long ago, Springsteen played a younger version of himself alongside Fallon as Young.)
Two of Fallon’s recent are “Tebowie” — a musical mash-up of David Bowie and quarterback Tim Tebow — and last week’s Downton Sixbey, a letter-perfect send-up of Downton Abbey (http://www.latenightwithjimmyfallon.com/video/downton-sixbey-episode-1/1396331).
Kimmel and Fallon aren’t the only late-night hosts keeping people up at night. As host of CBS’s The Late Late Show, Craig Ferguson also tries new things — like the week of shows he taped, sometimes literally, on the streets of Paris last year. But Ferguson has also experimented with conducting in-depth interviews with just one guest for an entire episode. The first was with Stephen Fry back in 2010, and I found it to be riveting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZb5YbtvYhw. Who expects such substance from a late-night talk show?
Shows like these are more than mindless viewing for night owls and insomniacs. They can be smart, fun and habit forming. Staying up to watch them can also result in extreme sleep deprivation. Fortunately for those of you who aren’t normally up late enough to watch these shows, the good news is you can always find a staggering number of clips online. These should get you started:
Jimmy Kimmel Live — http://www.youtube.com/user/JimmyKimmelLive?feature=chclk
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon — http://www.latenightwithjimmyfallon.com/video/categories/comedy-bits/1255235?view=thumbnail
Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson — http://www.youtube.com/user/TVsCraigFerguson2/
Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications. Follow her on Twitter at P_Hendrickson and send your suggestions to email@example.com.
From the April 18-24, 2012, issue