Load-Bearing Comeback

The NPR show Fresh Air is replaying some terrific interviews with late-night hosts all this week. From their website:

Fresh Air kicks off its late night TV theme week with a 1981 David Letterman interview, in which the host describes how late night TV changed the comedy business, and a 1988 interview with one-time Tonight Show executive producer Fred de Cordova.

In a 1996 interview with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross, Leno recalled his rocky Tonight Show debut: “I got heckled my first show … but luckily I had worked a lot of clubs so I could deal with it, and Johnny [Carson] seemed to like that.”

When O’Brien took over for David Letterman on NBC’s Late Night, he had virtually no on-air experience. In a 2003 interview, O’Brien tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross about his efforts to fill Letterman’s shoes and how his Irish-Catholic repression fuels his comedy.

This year, the late-night talk-show host set up camp in the 11:35 p.m. slot, which put him head-to-head with Jay Leno and Kimmel’s idol, David Letterman. Kimmel has put a personal mark on his show by bringing in his family to help him make it happen.

Fallon is thankful for slow walkers, people named Lloyd and the word “moist.” The comedian and host of Late Night collects more than 100 nuggets of gratitude in a book called Thank You Notes. He talks with Terry Gross about giving thanks and doing impressions.

– Ben