The Best Talk Show Moments of 2015

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Ken Tucker
·Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
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It was a busier-than-usual year for late-night. The past year saw David Letterman’s last Late Show in May, Jon Stewart’s last Daily Show in August, and new hosts Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah taking over those respective desks in September. Here are what I consider the high points of each of the major late-night shows this year; your choices may vary.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (Comedy Central): Really, the entire final episode was a high point — it was a sustained salute to Stewart that, from the opening featuring a slew of correspondents from the Stewart’s entire run to the Bruce Springsteen serenade at the end, was a stirring way to send Stewart off to grow his beard.

The Late Show with David Letterman (CBS): The final show succeeded at a very tricky task — to send off the greatest talk-show host in the history of the medium (yep, my opinion) in a manner that wasn’t sentimental, which would have betrayed the great denial of sentimentality that was Letterman’s hallmark. To me, the best moments were visits from guests who bade Dave farewell: Chris Elliott’s choked-up singing goodbye; Al Franken’s eloquent explanation of what Letterman meant to the late-night format, and most of all, Norm Macdonald’s great final appearance, doing a super-solid stand-up set that culminated in him telling Dave he loved him — a choking-up moment that surprised both men. Oh, and like Stewart, Letterman left to grow a beard. A much bushier beard than Stewart’s.

The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon (NBC): With Fallon, it’s all about the games and the stunts, whether it’s beer pong, getting singers to trill along while the Roots accompany them on kiddie instruments, playing Catchphrase, or — as in this fun moment with Adele — a game called Box of Lies.

Jimmy Kimmel Live! (ABC): I like the way Kimmel doesn’t just play along with corporate synergy — he embraces it wholeheartedly, whether he’s appearing on The Bachelor or pitching his own product on Shark Tank:

Conan (TBS): O’Brien had the excellent idea to take his personal assistant Sona to the country her family is from, Armenia, for the first time in her life. The result was sometimes touching, but always hilarious, as it usually is when Conan interacts with anyone other than tall Irish people who look like him.

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS): Colbert hit the ground running, sometimes literally it seemed: On his version of The Late Show, he danced, he sang, he trotted up and down the aisles of the Ed Sullivan Theater. He’s conducted some excellent election-year interviews, my favorite being the substantive one with Ted Cruz, in which Colbert also admonished his audience not to boo his guest:

And for inspired silliness, I liked the first of Colbert’s “Hungry For Power Games,” in which the host applies a flashy Caesar Flickerman impersonation to the Presidential race.


The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore (Comedy Central): Wilmore has proven to be the most pointed late-night commentator, without ever losing the humor he’s there to provide. His Nightly Show, whether featuring Wilmore alone or during the often lively roundtable discussions, is consistently intelligent. I really liked Wilmore’s commentary after the Charleston church shootings:

The Late Late Show with James Corden (CBS): Corden’s biggest hits since his debut have probably been his carpool karaoke segments — just the kind of viral-video bits his employers wanted him to establish to boost the ratings in the post-Late Show time period. I have never liked Iggy Azalea as much as when she proved to be a surprisingly good sport chiming in with Corden.

Late Night with Seth Meyers (NBC): Meyers has been tinkering energetically at the late-night format. He’s opted to do his opening monologue at his desk, echoing his stint as SNL “Weekend Update” anchor. And his periodic segments called “A Closer Look,” are both funny and informative. My favorite one of these was his sharp-tongued discussion of Hillary Clinton’s campaign cash flow:

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (Comedy Central): Noah immediately distinguished himself from Stewart by being who he was: a South African man who’s getting his bearings on the crazy American media. He may have kept a few of Stewart’s correspondents and the general look and feel of the stage set, but in a segment such as this fine one, about Ben Carson’s quixotic quest for the Presidency, Noah established his own distinctive take on the news:


What were your favorite talk-show moments of the past year?

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