Late Show Closes In On Tonight Show With Help From Loyal Lettermanist Howard Stern
Where the 11:30 p.m. TV hour was always something of a no-brainer -- Letterman if you wanted to laugh, Leno if you wanted to sleep -- now it proposes something of a late night viewing conundrum. Conan and Letterman, treading similar waters of brainily askew comedy, court the same audience, with Conan's perhaps skewing younger. Letterman's the curmudgeon, O'Brien's the clown. Dave is the king of the awkward celebrity interview; Conan excels at pushing the envelope via childish framing devices (pimp robots, masturbating bears, insulting dog puppets, etc.) We've been gravitating to Conan, lately, mainly because his Tonight Show tenureship still has that new car smell -- but we'll gravitate back to Dave eventually and time shift O'Brien. There really is no one funnier.
Howard Stern agrees, having said as much on last night's Late Show. He said that staff backstage were nervously relaying their hopes that Stern's appearance would nudge Letterman past The Tonight Show's ratings for the first time since Conan's debut. (It didn't, but they got a lot closer: Conan got a 3.1/8, just ahead of Letterman's 3.0/8.) He then launched into a no-holds barred attack on the competition that seemed to only to delight the host:
"We gotta beat this Conan. I mean for God sakes, how are you feeling that Jay left late-night television and now we got a new guy we gotta compete with? [...] I have stuck with Dave. I didn't like Jay. I never liked Jay. I can't stand Jay. I never seen anybody who behaves like a robot like this guy. I watched his final show. He says goodbye to The Tonight Show. He says goodbye reading it off a teleprompter for cryin' out loud. Where's the emotion, and where's the humanity?"
Also discussed: Sacha Baron Cohen's flagrant intellectual property pirating of Stern's patented Fly Into MTV Awards Via Wires With Ass Exposed routine. Here's the clip: