TV’s Top Daytime Talkers! ‘Closer’ Counts Down the Greatest Talk Show Hosts of All Time

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It takes a special talent to be a daytime talk show host, both in engaging with the guest as well as an audience. Since the birth of the medium there have been so many shows that have come and gone, but these 10 talkers have gone the distance thanks to the power and charisma of the people leading them. In order, here's Closer's list of the top 10 greatest talk show hosts of all time.

No. 1: 'The Oprah Winfrey Show'

"We are all looking for the same thing. This is the one lesson I came away from doing The Oprah Winfrey Show,” shared Oprah, whose 25-year reign as TV’s queen of daytime talk started on September 8, 1986. “The common denominator of our experiences is that we all want to know that we matter and we want a show that reflects our values.”

No. 2: 'Donahue'

Is the caller there? Beginning on November 6, 1967, Phil Donahue dialed up the daytime ratings for 29 years and nearly 7,000 episodes. How? “When I took over this show, I realized the people in the audience were asking better questions than I was,” Phil recalled. “So I jumped out into the audience, and it saved us. There would have been no Donahue show without [our] audience.”

No. 3: 'The Mike Douglas Show'

Besides being “just a good guy who likes people,” the former big band singer thought he hit the right note with daytime viewers from 1961 to 1982 because “I worked harder than any [host] did…. The trick was making it look easy.”

No. 4: 'The Ellen DeGeneres Show'

Aww, snap! From 2003 to 2022, Ellen found success by making her titular show an extension of her upbeat personality. “I became a comedian to make people feel good,” she said. “My whole being is about making people happy. And with the talk show, all I cared about was spreading kindness and compassion.”

No. 5: 'Dinah!'

After hosting Dinah’s Place for four seasons, Dinah Shore began a six-year run with this show on October 21, 1974. But with each, she always had one worry: “There are people you’re impressed with, that you’re in awe of and you’ll sit there and you can’t think of anything to ask.”

No. 6: 'The Merv Griffin Show'

On October 1, 1962, Merv kicked off a 24-year stint in talk — on the same day and in the very same studio that Johnny Carson began hosting The Tonight Show! Said Merv, “We were very competitive, because I was getting all the good guest stars!”

No. 7: 'Live With Regis and Kathie Lee'

While he joked about being “out of control,” Regis Philbin knew exactly what he was doing when he and Kathie Lee [Gifford] started Live on September 5, 1988. “Even though it was just a little, simple nine o’clock in the morning show, I wanted guests to look better than they did on anybody else’s program,” he said.

No. 8: 'The View'

Launched on August 11, 1997, this morning staple has gone through 24 cohosts. Yet it has stuck to what creator Barbara Walters set out to do no matter the hot topic: “Find smart women of different ages and different personalities who could disagree without killing one another and, better still, might actually like each other.”

No. 9: 'The Rosie O'Donnell Show'

“I don’t think I was playing a character,” reflected Rosie of her daytime run from 1996 to 2002, when she’d get dubbed the “Queen of Nice” for thinking every celeb was a cutie patootie. “I was myopically focused on show business my entire life, and to be in the midst of it was overwhelming.”

No. 10: 'The Kelly Clarkson Show'

In going from American Idol to starting a new career as talk show host in 2019, Kelly admits she needed to learn one important skill. “Shutting up! I am a talker. I had to really learn to listen and let people kind of go ... because you never know where they’ll take you.”