Stephen Colbert was the lead guest on Letterman last night, in a fun example of a decades old tradition of competing late night hosts appearing on each other’s shows. Despite all the talk about late night rivalries – or probably because of them – these types of appearances always have an electricity to them. Late night hosts belong to one of the most exclusive clubs in the world, and when they genuinely like each other (as almost all of them, save for one, seem to), it’s a unique pleasure to watch.
Out of every other host on the air, Colbert is the least obviously influenced by Letterman’s iconic Late Night, and yet seeing both of them together highlights their very similar appeal. While Dave is historically ironic and detached with guests, Stephen stretches that purposeful irony to an absurd level of engagement. Yet both of them manage to be smart, singular comedians without losing a genuine All-American appeal. You can find the full episode by clicking the picture above, but this clip is a terrific example of how these two very different styles spark against each other.
Some other favorite clips of late night camaraderie at its finest:
3 friendly New York comedians + a lot of programming time to fill – writing staff = one of my favorite memories of late night. If only all late-night wars were this silly.
I repeat: if only all late-night wars were that silly. Two veterans of the aforementioned wars, with extremely different outcomes. It’s great to see Dave – who escaped NBC with his own version of the Tonight’s Show on a different broadcast network – talk it out with Conan, Letterman’s successor at NBC who, because of extremely similar circumstances, is working to redefine how mainstream late night shows are produced and analyzed.
Purest, goofiest example of late night competitors not giving a fuck that they’re competitors. It’s hard to get into a hard broiled ratings war, especially deep down at 12:35 when both hosts are so likeable.
If every host right now secretly wants to be like Letterman, it’s simply because Johnny Carson is impossible to emulate. He dominates any show he’s on, including Dave’s. There’s a reason there’s only one truth in late night: Carson is King.
Psst: Not technically late night, and not quite camaraderie, but one of the best quality host-on-host appearances can be found here.