For expats looking to better understand American humor and culture, late-night talk shows provide a unique and entertaining window into the nation’s psyche. From politics to celebrity interviews, these shows deliver a nightly dose of laughter and thought-provoking entertainment. As some hosts have recently left their shows, let’s take a look at the ever-changing landscape of American late-night television and dive into some memorable moments.
1. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)
John Oliver’s show, Last Week Tonight, offers a deep dive into a single topic each week, providing thorough and insightful analysis with a comedic twist. If you want to watch the entire show, you will need to subscribe to HBO Max, or just Max now. This is one of my most favorite shows because of the depth, the humor, and the storytelling. I admire his ability to make boring topics fun and entertaining like: debt buyers, net neutrality, corporate consolidation, homeowners association, timeshares, rocks (rocks!).
The show has won the Outstanding Variety Talk Series award from Emmys for 2016!
Many of his memorable segments have sparked national conversations and even influenced policy changes. Oliver’s international perspective and sharp wit (like in Canadian Election, Brazil election) make this show a favorite among expats and locals alike.
2. Real Time with Bill Maher: Political Satire Meets In-Depth Discussion (HBO)
Unlike the other late-night talk shows, HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” airs weekly and dives deeper into political and social issues. Bill Maher, a seasoned comedian and political commentator, is known for his unapologetically blunt and sometimes controversial style. The show is structured around Maher’s monologue, followed by panel discussions with a mix of journalists, politicians, activists, and celebrities. These panel debates often become heated, showcasing a variety of perspectives on current issues.
Signature segment: “New Rules” is a fan-favorite segment where Maher humorously proposes new rules for society to follow, often addressing current events, politics, and pop culture in a tongue-in-cheek manner.
Bill also does stand-up and many of his stand-up specials are great to watch too, like Bill Maher: #Adulting.
Most of his work is on HBO Max nowadays so again, you will need to sign up for HBO Max to watch them.
If you like what you see from Bill, you can also check out his video podcast called “Club Rrandom with Bill Maher.” The series has been ongoing over the past one year. Each week, Bill sits down with someone and just has a good time with them.
Bill has been “attacked” by both the left and the right for his political views and comments. Well, I like him, and while I don’t agree with him 100%, I tend to agree with his viewpoint more than 50% of the time.
3. The Daily Show – Post Trevor Noah Era (Comedy Central)
After Trevor Noah’s departure at the end of 2022, The Daily Show entered a new era. The show, which originally rose to prominence under Jon Stewart, has always been known for its satirical approach to current events, politics, and social issues. Trevor Noah’s tenure as host brought an international perspective, and his “Between the Scenes” segments often offered candid, insightful moments. As Comedy Central is searching for a new host, fans are excited to see how the show will evolve and continue its legacy of sharp commentary and humor.
As of now, Apr 2023, the show has a different host every week. And boy! I like many of them being the host. For example:
- Hasan Minhaj is killing it across many topics.
- I appreciated Desi Lydic as a comedian much more last week when she was the host.
4. The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS)
Stephen Colbert rose to fame on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show and The Colbert Report before taking over The Late Show. The show is daily and it starts with Stephen monologues, talking about daily events. Known for his sharp wit and satirical take on politics, Colbert’s “Trump Tweets” segment became a viewer favorite during the previous administration. His in-depth interviews with high-profile guests like Joe Biden and Elon Musk offer a balance of humor and substance.
5. The Late Late Show with James Corden (CBS)
Known for his infectious enthusiasm and popular segments like “Carpool Karaoke,” James Corden has made a significant impact on American late-night TV. With Corden leaving the show at the end of April 2023, fans eagerly await news about the show’s future and his replacement.
6. Late Night with Seth Meyers (NBC)
A blend of traditional late-night talk show elements and sharp political satire, Late Night with Seth Meyers delivers smart humor and engaging interviews. Meyers, a former head writer for Saturday Night Live, brings his extensive comedy background to the show, creating memorable moments that resonate with viewers.
7. Jimmy Kimmel Live! (ABC)
Jimmy Kimmel Live! combines comedy sketches, celebrity interviews, and heartwarming moments. Known for his prank segments like “Lie Witness News” and “Mean Tweets,” Kimmel has developed a unique blend of humor that resonates with viewers across the country. His annual Halloween candy prank, where parents pretend to have eaten their children’s candy, has become a beloved tradition for many families.
8. The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (NBC)
The Tonight Show has become a staple of American late-night TV with its lighthearted blend of celebrity interviews, musical performances, and humorous games like “Lip Sync Battle.” Host Jimmy Fallon’s fun-loving, approachable style has made the show accessible to a broad audience, making it the perfect entry point for expats. Fallon’s ability to get celebrities like Will Ferrell and Michelle Obama to participate in hilarious sketches has consistently kept viewers entertained.
American late-night talk shows offer a diverse range of humor, interviews, and insights into the country’s culture. For expats, these shows provide not only a nightly dose of laughter but also a better understanding of the issues and events shaping America. By exploring the unique styles and memorable moments of each show, newcomers can dive into the world of late-night television and find their favorite hosts and segments.