10 Out-of-the-Box Letterman Replacements That Would Break the Late-Night Mold

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10 Out-of-the-Box Letterman Replacements That Would Break the Late-Night Mold

By Dustin Rowles | Seriously Random Lists | April 3, 2014 | Comments ()


David Letterman announced his retirement today (and you can actually watch the announcement now, here) and though I thought we could wait until tomorrrow to start rattling off potential replacements, that hasn’t happened. Most of the names being bandied about, so far, are the names you’d expect to see: Stephen Colbert, Craig Ferguson, Jon Stewart, Conan O’Brien, and even Jay Leno. There have been a few mold-breaking choices (Ellen Degeneres, Chris Rock, Neil Patrick Harris).

I think, however, that if you’re going to compete against Fallon — who has a commanding lead in the ratings over on The Tonight Show — and Kimmell, you really have to offer a real alternative, instead of another Seth Meyers, or Carson Daly, or any number of white guys in their 40s. This is the only way to really give audiences a choice, instead of a variation on a similar theme.

My suggestions? Maybe these 10, none of whom have a shot in hell.

Hannibal Buress

Amy Schumer

Aisha Tyler

Aziz Ansari

Tina Fey

Amy Poehler

Lena Dunham

Mindy Kaling

Cecily Strong

Ira Glass (OK. Admittedly, older white guy, but not anything like anyone else on late night).

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • annie

    I love almost everyone on this list, but I don't want to take away from what they're currently doing and being awesome. Aisha Tyler would still be able to do her seriously great podcast while hosting a late night...

  • Lena Dunham breaking the mold would only make me nostalgic for the mold. HOLD YOUR TONGUES.

  • Orleanas

    Is Aisha Tyler really even that funny or entertaining?...But then again, I don't think Kimmel is funny and he has a late show, so I guess it's OK she's on this list.

  • Iron

    If Ira Glass were running the show I would instantly go from "never seen the show" to "I stay up to watch it every night". I would also strongly support NPH and Mindy, maybe Amy and Tina... if they did it together.

  • mairimba

    You know? I don't think Craig Ferguson would accept the job if it were offered to him. He has a lot of fun on his show and I don't see him getting less goofy for that.

    Please tell me you're trolling with Lena Dunham and Mindy Kaling?

    I vote Aisha Tyler or Tina Fey. 75-25.

  • Jerry Kenney

    If I had a say, I'm all for Aisha Tyler. She is so smart.

    I am also against Ira Glass; I am still wincing over the public radio commercials he made a few years back in which he embarrassed schlumps who would talk to him on mic about not contributing to public radio. (I don't contribute because of their #1 lie: "commercial-free.")

  • John G.

    not only are they not commercial free, they are influenced heavily by oil and gas money, and right-wing billionaires, not This American Life per se, but I'd be surprised if they were immune too.

  • Maddy

    You know who would be awesome? Retta

  • atoz15

    after the announcement, lena dunham immediately tweeted that retta should get the job ...and i totally agree! she would kill it.

  • greystokememphis

    I don't want to see Stewart or Colbert neutered by taking over a boring talk show. They are to valuable to America where they are and it will be a national tragedy when they finally decide to stop.

    Aisha Tyler is a fantastic choice.

    Dream choice? Bill Murray.

  • Tom

    Haha, the new free Getty Images strike again. I'm sure Tina Fey is super pleased that is the free stock image that pops up under her name. She looks like she's mid-snart.

  • I never knew how much I wanted an Aisha Tyler hosted Late Night until right now.

  • John G.

    Mindy Kaling could do it. Tina Fey could obviously do it, but she's probably too busy with other things. Amy Poehler would be a waste of her talents to be in an interview format. Aisha Tyler is great. Maybe Aisha and Mindy together? Ira Glass has a job, and he belongs nowhere else.

    Lena Dunham And Amy Schumer? get the fuck out of here.

  • John G.

    Hannibal would be fun, but I don't know if he can hack it as an interviewer. He mumble-talks, and doesn't have that conversational style.

  • John G.

    Aziz is an interesting choice. He really doesn't have a lot of range as an actor. It's still the same incredulous, high-pitched, whiny character in standup, in Parks, and in movies. I think a talk show would be a good fit for him.

  • John G.

    What the fuck is the deal with Cecily Strong? She appeared five minutes ago and already got weekend update. Now you want to give her Letterman's spot? She's fine, but where does all this incredible luck and good will come from?

  • RocksEaglesHats

    I think going to the SNL alumni well for the third straight time would be a mistake. I include Tina Fey and Amy Poehler in that, dear as they both are to me.

    Of this list, I think Aisha Tyler is the strongest choice. Neil Patrick Harris would also be an absolute knockout- and my first choice off the top of my head right now among realistic options. Or maybe Joel McHale, who would well carry on the mantle of handsome snarky white male egoists from Dave.

    Among unrealistic options, however, I think someone else already mentioned Paul F. Tompkins? That would be bliss on a stick. In the same vein, John Hodgman would also be a deliriously funny and wonderful host, and comes with Daily Show cred- he'd raise the level of discourse. Patton Oswalt could never restrain himself to conform to network TV standards of decency, nor would we want him to.

  • DangerBlouse

    Nice trolling with Lena Dunham. You know your audience.

  • I heard Louis C.K. was being groomed by David Lynch for the part, but ultimately it didn't work out.

  • Some Guy

    Why don't they just cancel the show and replace it with some original content? Not trying to be snarky, but at this point, the old guard is moving on at a time when there are plenty of other shows in a similar format.

    Do we really need another late-night talk show where a guy sits there and talks to celebrities who take the time to stop by and chat inbetween every other interview they are doing at the time to promote their product?

    Even Fallon seems to be trying to buck the trend by focusing more on the viral, interactive aspect. How long his schtick will last remains to be seen.

    Again though: would we really be doing the world a disservice by removing one of half a dozen late night shows that all have their moments but just aren't that good?

    Late night died with Johnny Carson.

    There, I said it.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    a sound entertainment idea, but from a money in, money out idea, I think the production costs of a late night talk show are very low compared to anything scripted & edited.

  • Bob Genghis Khan

    No thanks to Aisha Tyler. I had the [mis]pleasure of catching her Critics Choice awards hosting this year. It was painfully awkward to watch, not in the 'uncomfortable humor' vein, but more like the 'you are an awful host and your terrible skills and worse humor are making me uncomfortable' vein.

  • Bert_McGurt

    This is even less likely than the choices above (not to mention it'd take him away from The League), but wouldn't Jason Mantzoukas be an absolutely BONKERS late-night host?

  • Dumily

    Yeah, but then we'd have to give up Rafi. I'm not sure if I'm prepared to do that.

  • Bert_McGurt

    Unless...Rafi IS the host.

  • Dumily

    I would watch that show, but I'm pretty sure it would only come in fevered nightmare form.

  • Mrs. Julien


  • Dumily

    Only if she's able to continue doing "Archer" too. Otherwise a million times yes. She's just so fucking cool.

  • DataAngel

    I just want it to be someone named Jimmy.

  • Frank Berrodin

    Neil Patrick Mothafuqqinharris

  • hmm

    *checks list for Lena Dunham mention...there it is*

    Seriously, what's with the writers on this site and the continued Lena Dunham love? You've listed someone who's frequently made racist comments - great job, guys!

  • e jerry powell

    Swing for the fences, guy...

  • Wrestling Fan

    I could definitely see Aisha Tyler. She has the chops, she has the experience, she's damn smart, and funny as hell.

  • The timing of the transition is going to be important on who the new host will be too. My guess is that Letterman will bow out in late February-early March next year. Dave will have is swan song during February sweeps and run "Best of" shows during a time of year when Dave's show gets bumped around anyway (thank you NCAA Tournament and The Masters). The new lineup gets promoted to high heaven during March Madness and The Masters and the show starts in early April, giving the new show time to get its sea legs while still maintaining that new show smell for May sweeps. Anybody with series commitments during that window would be tough to shake loose.

  • Davis

    Aziz can shout his monologue, Amy.S can make her sex jokes and Lena can talk about how innovative she is.

  • BetterCallSaul

    I'd love to see Dunham interview herself over and over again.

    Someone else said Craig Robinson. That would be awesome. Walton Goggins constantly in character as Boyd Crowder would also be acceptable. I'd have to whip out Webster's on a nightly basis.

  • zeke_the_pig

    Aisha Tyler for Supreme Earth Overlord 2015.

  • John G.

    supreme overlord? sure. Talk show host? No

  • Susan

    I would watch Aziz host anything. Even a hot dog eating contest.

  • TacoBellRey

    John Mulaney just popped into my head. This is probably the best idea I've had in a long time. Ricky Gervais would be fun.

  • John G.

    Oh man, that would fuck Pete Holmes up to see his buddy get an even bigger talk show

  • Michelle

    Can we just all vote Cecily Strong? She's charming, funny, and damn easy on the eyes.

  • Bob Genghis Khan

    She doesn't have anything close to enough experience...let's be realistic.

  • Yes, yes. Howeva! She's really struggled in the spotlight of the few episodes of Weekend Update without Seth Myers (You can blame Jost, but Strong hasn't really taken control, either). Other than the brilliant but one-note Ex-porn star sketch, she's mainly been a support player in other sketches. At this point she just doesn't have the kind of charisma to take over the room the way it's needed for a late night host.

  • Guest

    It should be Ferguson. *Too bad HBO already gave John Oliver a show as I would have love to have seen a Ferguson / Oliver late night block.

    **Oliver apparently was approached.

    Or this guy:

    *And the timing fits if Letterman does another year for #seasonsandmovie.

    Regardless it's going to have to be a recognizable name to go up against Kimmel, O'Brien and Fallon.

    Stephen Colbert would also be a great choice.

    As for an "out of the box" choice it's CBS so it's gonna be a "white guy in his 40's (mid to late thirties would be as "out of the box" as you're going to get).

  • Dumily

    You leave Jeff Winger out of this.

  • Guest

    McHale will always be that guy who looks like Ryan Seacrest from the Soup first to me, Winger second.

  • Dumily

    We just broke up.

  • Guest

    I love the The Soup, Winger on the other hand has just gotten a bit old.

  • Dumily

    No! It's not about the character. It's about the further dismantling of the Greendale 7. We've lost too many good men already. Well, we lost one good man, and one asshole well past his prime who even in his prime was never as funny as he believed himself to be. But Troy was awesome.

  • Guest

    Well depending on McHale's contract and the timing
    #seasonsandmovie could still happen.

    NBC has to renew Community first though.

  • Dumily

    Assuming that Community finishes its run the way Harmon would like it to, I'm still not entirely sold on the McHale as late night host idea. He's sort of a snarky dick. I want him to continue to mock the Kardashians, not ask them to see pictures of East Southitude or whatever the hell that poor kid's name is.

  • Guest

    I'm pretty sure he can continue being a "snarky dick" (see Kimmel) while being a late night host.

    *I wonder if Anderson Cooper would want the gig? CNN is dead and and he's already on 60 Minutes. I'd love to see a show more along the lines of See It Now than a strict Late Night replacement.

  • Guest

    Drew Carey and Wayne Brady should also not be counted out.

  • dizzylucy

    As much as I love Craig, i think he'd be kind of stifled in the bigger spotlight. Right now, as he often says, it's like CBS forgets he's on there, he does whatever the hell he wants, and it's fantastic. Replacing Letterman would be a vastly different situation for him, and I'd gladly watch, but I don't think he wants it.

  • emmalita

    I think he's said he wants to do other things besides hosting late night.

  • Frankc

    John Leguizamo

  • I'm terrified it's going to be Handler.

  • John G.

    Amy Schumer would be like a second Handler

  • Thankfully the boss screwing on air talent quota has already been filled at CBS by Julie Chen

  • Bob Genghis Khan

    Hopefully Letterman's announcement and Handler's show ending are coincidences, because, frankly, Handler is an asshole.

    I say Joel McHale all the way.

  • Dumily

    And not funny. Or personable. She's just not good at her job is the problem.

  • Ben

    If you take Amy Pohler away from Parks and Rec I will have to kill everyone.

  • AudioSuede

    What a weird weird list. But some interesting suggestions. People forget that being a late night host isn't just about being funny. You have to be personable and riff well with others. That rules out Hannibal, Amy Schumer, Dunham, and probably Aziz, who are all funny in their own right but are too strong in their individual personalities to give a worthwhile interview.

    Most of the ideas people are throwing around lack logic. Why would Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert jump to a completely different format of late night show even though they have two of the most influential series on television and both have cushy deals with tons of creative control and a four-day workweek? Why would Conan leave a really lucrative TBS contract to grapple with a major network? What would CBS see in Carson Daly that NBC clearly didn't, since they left him to his graveyard slot after Fallon moved up?

    The most obvious choice is Craig Ferguson, since he's been groomed for the job for a very long time, but his rebellious nature has served him well as the sort of "aging punk rocker" of late night, complete with an ironic robot sidekick and a slew of almost impenetrable running gags. He might appeal to CBS's main demographics, but he'd probably lose his edge, and therefore the identity that has made him such a great host in his time slot.

    Of the suggestions you've proffered, I actually think Aisha Tyler would be the best option for her outgoing personality and her affability. It would be a game-changing pick, though she might face the "lead personality" problem of some of the people I mentioned before, and she might not be able to get out of the way of herself when it's time for a serious interview.

    Amy Pohler would be dynamite, but of course she has Parks and Rec. Tina Fey is probably the most likely female candidate, and she would make a great late night host if she could pull together some of her old Weekend Update energy for her monologues (though NBC might object to losing one of their brightest stars).

    So let's start throwing out names nobody's talking about:

    -Paul F. Tompkins (everyone's dream podcast guest is also one of the funniest, most affable, and most genuinely creative stand-ups in the business. Add to that he has hosting experience on Best Week Ever and his delightful YouTube series "Speakeasy," and he's got the chops for a night-in, night-out answer to other late night titans. He lacks name recognition, but he's got talent to burn).

    -Craig Robinson (he's an actor first, and that might be a drawback when it comes time to be himself and do a monologue or an interview, but he's well-liked in Hollywood circles and seems pleasant enough off-camera. Plus, he's got a wide range of skills that could keep the variety fresh night to night).

    -Aasif Mandvi (the guy's incredibly funny, incredibly smart, and he's been around enough for great facial recognition. The guy's been a great workhorse for The Daily Show for years, and he might just be a great talk show host on his own. (Ditto everything I just said for Jason Jones and Samantha Bee)).

    -Ben Schwartz (very young, and maybe a little too green, but he's affable, funny, smart, and gives great interviews. He'd make a really solid follow-up if they did decide to bump Ferguson into the prime slot).

    -Ben Blacker (long-time podcast writer and interviewer, his work on the Nerdist Writers Panel proves his interviewing skills, and he's one-half of the funniest sketch writing team in podcasting, a definite plus for developing a strong voice as a host).

    -Greg Proops (might be too caustic for late night duties, but Ferguson proved that's not always a drawback).

    It's a search that will probably be narrow and dull, but if they widened the net, they might just find some real gems out there ready to take the desk.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I really like the Aasif Mandvi suggestion. I enjoy his interviews on Daily Show, and he does have a great deadpan style.

  • I love Craig Ferguson and hope to Godtopus they leave him in the 12:35 slot so we get to keep the crazy we love.

  • RocksEaglesHats


  • Margrete

    I love Jon Stewart, but my least favourite part of his show is when he
    interviews actors. He works best when he can riff on actual news and say something substancial or have meaningful discussions, not sit with a celebrity and talk about nothing for five minutes. I don't think
    light/fluffy entertainment is the right fit for him, but then again I do
    think he might be ready for a change. He has been doing the job for
    almost 15 years, and I also think Letterman likes Stewart as his

  • I would have seen Jon Stewart taking Letterman's spot if John Oliver was still available to take over TDS.

  • Anne At Large

    Craig would never be able to be as weird as he is in the wee hours, and I think he knows that. But I am pretty sure Aisha Tyler would be dynamite!

  • I think Ferguson has gone on record more than once basically saying DO NOT WANT when it comes to taking any sort of 11:30 show.

  • I hadn't thought of it earlier but this list brings to mind Scott Aukerman as well. Not only is he a solid interviewer but he is the production brains behind so much of the (indie?) comedic happenings. Though, in all honesty, I don't think he'd fit in it well.
    EDIT: saw comment below re: Auckerman and agree.

  • Guest

    Why would Stewart or Colbert make the jump? Money and profile.

  • They've both been pretty upfront about saying they could never do the shows they'd want to do outside of Comedy Central. I can only imagine that comes from conversations they've already had with various networks. I see them moving to HBO (like John Oliver) or something before hitting network TV.

  • Sean

    They're Viacom employees. If Viacom wants either of them on CBS, they go to CBS.

  • cruzzercruz

    That would have to be written into their contracts. Companies like that don't just force hosts to switch networks and take over something as huge as Late Night. There would be discussions, offers, and there could be a refusal. It's not like trading shifts at the supermarket.

  • I guarantee you that's not how their contracts work.

  • They're both too valuable of assets to Comedy Central's bottom line to move them to CBS

  • vivkane

    Oh my god, PFT would be perfect. And I never would have thought of Ben Blacker. Could an Acker & Blacker duo take the place of one Letterman? I say yes.

  • TacoBellRey

    A million times yes to Paul F. Thompkins.

  • John G.

    Holy Shit! That's it. That is fucking PERFECT.

    Paul F. Tompkins

  • Of that list, Tyler has the strongest combo of stand-up and interview skills. I still stand by my pick of Patton Oswalt. If not him then maybe Joel McHale, he will have finished his six seasons and a movie by then.

  • Matt C.

    I'm not sure any of these would be the best choices, because you're right, most of them don't have a chance, but also, I prefer my late night talk show hosts to be somebody who I really like but also somebody who I don't care if they stop doing the things that they're doing now. For instance, if Tina Fey stopped creating TV shows and acting in movies, I would be devastated. I think we should make a list of out-of-the-box choices who actually have the careers to back up them getting a talk show gig that we also wouldn't mind if their other careers stopped. I'm thinking like Sarah Silverman, Maya Rudolph, Wayne Brady, yes to Aziz, Kevin Hart etc.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Wayne Brady to me was the obvious non-white choice, though he didn't really have success with his previous talk show.

  • AudioSuede

    Ooh, Maya Rudolph could be a fantastic choice.

  • L.O.V.E.

    break the late night mold, you say?

    tracy morgan

    Realistically? Howard Stern

  • gnibs

    Stern is too old now, but imagine in 1997, around the release of Private Parts, he would have been amazing.

  • kirbyjay

    Howard Stern killed WBCN in Boston. Boo to Howard Stern

  • Sean

    Some of those are great choices. So they won't happen.

  • stella

    But Aisha Tyler has to be on archer.

  • Walking into a recording studio and saying lines doesn't take a ton of time. Colbert did a ton of stuff for Adult Swim shows while still on the Daily Show and Colbert Report.

  • Guest

    Plus she already does the Talk so time shouldn't be an issue.

  • kushiro -

    Scott Aukerman, with Reggie Watts as bandleader. The talent pool for skits and random crowd stuff would be off the charts awesome.

  • AudioSuede

    Scott just couldn't get away with all the anti-comedy and improv that he loves so much on a big show like that. Comedy Bang Bang serves him just fine.

  • googergieger

    Anyways, Norm Macdonald.

  • AudioSuede

    I was going to say that he's too much of a sarcastic dickish type for that show, but then again, so is Letterman. So, that might not be a bad suggestion.

  • John W

    Tina Fey was my first thought. If not her then Colbert.

  • googergieger


  • Sara_Tonin00

    Yeah. I feel like outside of Aisha Tyler, these are either terrible or still obvious choices.

  • Joe Zakko

    basically the writer's only criterion for 'mold-breaking' was that the replacement would have to either be a woman, not white, or both. The 10th suggestion is the only exception, for which an apology was issued.

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