Crizic brings you a list of the greatest TV hosts of all time. Ranking is based on the influence, charisma, and overall impact on the television industry.
8. Ellen DeGeneres
The Ellen DeGeneres Show began in 2003 and quickly became a breakaway hit. Whether she’s dancing in the aisles or interviewing celebrities, Ellen is really the only midday talk show you need.
7. David Letterman
The only man on par with Carson – and the man Carson would have preferred to hand off “The Tonight Show” to when he retired in 1992 – is Letterman, who just marked his 30th year of late night broadcasting. That career commenced after a failed attempt at a morning show with the post-Carson slot and his innovatively sardonic “Late Night” program with erstwhile bandleader Paul Shaffer. He mocked everyone and everything, including himself, and had a lot of fun subverting the conventions of the format with things like the “monkey cam” and “Stupid Pet Tricks,” and often mocking his employers mercilessly. So acidic was his wit that people were actually afraid to come on the show, but it was such an underground hit that they couldn’t be cool unless they did. Then came the infamous Jay Leno kerfluffle that led him to move from NBC to CBS and directly compete with the show he once wanted at 11:30pm. In the 20 years since, Dave has aged, mellowed a bit, and relaxed into the format he once skewered, although he’s gotten more politically pointed, too. Such freedom comes with being an institution.
6. Kapil Sharma
Weirdest addition to this list for some, Kapil Sharma is someone who defines the phrase ‘Self-made-man’. With guests ranging from every corner of Cricket and Bollywood, the two most worshiped things in India, this guy’s genius comic timing, amazing charisma, and the ability to run a completely family-friendly show puts him on number six on this list.
5. Steve Allen
In 1953, this intellectual musical-comedy showman joined NBC and started ‘Tonight,’ a 1.5 hour talk-variety show with future ‘Match Game’ host Gene Rayburn as his announcer which he based on a local New York show he’d been doing. Everybody doing the late night talk show schtick owes a debt to Allen and his innovations, not to mention his talent for wordplay. On the first show, he made a joke about the length of the broadcast, quipping ‘I want to give you the bad news first: this program is going to go on forever.’ Little did he know how prescient he was – nearly 60 years later, it’s still on the air, and his declaration that it was not a spectacular, but rather monotonous is eerily apt these days.
4. Jon Stewart
Jon Stewart and The Daily Show have influenced the political discourse like no other talk show before it. Some give him credit (or blame) for quashing the careers of more than one cable news pundit. And his nightly guests have evolved from celebrities promoting their latest entertainment to scientists, activists, senators and presidents. His show is a must-stop for political campaigners – right- or left-wing – and Stewart provides intellectual discourse and, often, probing questions that would rival Sunday morning’s political shows. To top it all off, the man is downright funny and incredibly likable. Which is probably his most secret weapon of all.
3. Jack Paar
Perhaps most famously, Paar abruptly quit The Tonight Show after one of his monologue jokes was censored by NBC. He left right after delivering his monologue the following evening, leaving his announcer, Hugh Downs, to fill in for the remainder of the program. He eventually returned a month later, delivering the famous line, ‘As I was saying before I was interrupted—-I believe the last thing I said was ‘There must be a better way to make a living than this.’ Well, I’ve looked – and there isn’t.’
2. Johnny Carson
Johnny Carson will be forever known as the king of late night television. His 30 years as host of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson serves as an achievement – both in longevity and artistically – for current and future talk show hosts to aspire. Carson reinvented the monologue, scored with clever skits and memorable characters, and became loved by Americans young and old. Nearly every major talk show host of the last 20 years includes Carson as both an inspiration and an influence, including David Letterman, current Tonight Show host Jay Leno and former host Conan O’Brien.
1. Oprah Winfrey
Describing Oprah Winfrey is fairly simple. Describing her global impact and world-wide appeal is not. Beloved internationally and the sovereign of a media empire that includes television, film, radio, web and social media, education, and more. She has her own network and slate of shows. She’s been called ‘the world’s most powerful woman’ by Time magazine and Life pinned her with the title ‘the most influential woman and the most influential African-American of her generation.’ The magazine even included her in a list of the ‘100 people who have change the world.’ The list included Jesus Christ and Mother Teresa. And there are just way too many accolades to list. What’s amazing is; this all started with one little talk show, launched in Chicago 25 years ago and ending in the summer of 2011.