Friday, May 12, 2006

Top 14 Talk Show Hosts Part I

I recently got an email from blogging legend and former radio co-worker Dangerspouse with the subject line…. “Who Are These People?” Without even opening the email, I knew that "these people" were going to be relating to pop culture or sports! I've known the Danger-man for many many moons… and when it comes to TV and movies and sports and all the other stuff that fill this blog.. he lives happily out of the loop. The article from MSN was a list of the the best talk shows hosts… and that is the topic of today’s column.

The night Johnny Carson hosted his final show.. I had a little party and we all watched as the King of Talk Shows bid adieu after a remarkable run as The King of Late Night. He said he would be back in some form down the road.. but that that was the last we saw of Mr. Carson.. (aside from a few cameos with Letterman…) During that party while we all crowded around the TV, Dangerspouse sat in the dining room, and happily read a book!

I must admit that I don’t watch talk shows as much as I used to. I seem to be more hip to how staged and scripted the guests have become .. Plus with all the cable channels and now the NHL Playoffs.. who has time? Oh wait a minute.. I can't see the hockey playoffs because I don’t get the OLN channel!! And the new set-up only gives local channels the rights to 2 games in the 2nd round.. and no games in the subsequent rounds. What a truly dopey move for the post lockout NHL to hook up with a cable channel that nobody gets!

Back in the old days.. I used to love talk shows and tried to catch as much Johnny, Merv, Mike, and Letterman as humanly possible. I liked seeing the actors being themselves which is why as a young kid I used to watch all the celebrity game shows like Match Game, Hollywood Squares, Tattletales and Celebrity Sweepstakes.

Their article has some oddball rankings.. So without further ado - here is my list of the top 14 Talk Show hosts!

THE WILD CARDS.. I'm too young to rank them but they deserve mentioning.. .. Pre-Johnny Tonight show hosts Steve Allen and Jack Paar. Both were on before my time so I never got to see them hold down the fort on The Tonight Show. I have seen Steve Allen on a number of shows, and he is credited with many of the man on the street bits that Jay Leno has blatantly stolen! However, I am not familiar with Paar’s work.. so just to be fair I will give them a wild card pick to be inserted wherever you feel is a fair spot.

NOT RANKED - BUT NOTEWORTHY - Talk shows that used to be on Channel 9! When I was a kid, Channels 5, 9, and 11 used to air all the syndicated reruns. But… 5 and 11 got the good shows.. And the lousy ones went to 9. Likewise, Channel 9 had a run of talk shows that could not ever run anywhere else. One was Kiner’s Korner, the Mets post game show with announcer Ralph Kiner… Then there was the all time classic Joe Franklin Show… a late night party with the oddest assortment of guests. When Joe ran out of questions, he had one guest question the other one.. A typical exchange went like this…

“Hello my friends, this is The Joe Franklin Show sponsored by Streit’s Matzo… Morris Katz, the worlds fastest painter is here, along with blind singer Tom Sullivan… Tom.. Maybe you have a question to ask Morris about his painting…" Morris would then proceed to paint a tree in 60 seconds while babbling about how happy he was to be on The Joe Franklin Show, his childhood in Warsaw, and a Polish weather forecast.

Later in the 80s, They also had the Morton Downey Show and of course the Richard Bey Show, the precursor to today’s fine shows hosted by Jerry Springer and Maury Povich. By the way, with all these paternity tests his guests take, and the recent tabloid allegations,... some of his producers may be guests giving him a paternity tests. Of course these woman who accuse him of having affairs, knew he was married.. Even the Amish know he is married to Connie Chung! Anyway .. Lets get on with Part I of the list..

14. Jerry Springer - We are gonna start the list with some controversy. Springer’s wacky carnival of stupidity continues to chug along and gives us a glimpse of what red neck America looks like. Most of the show is staged.. I caught an episode recently with this young guy who had no legs. He wore a t-shirt that was tied at the bottom to keep himself from being arrested for illegal exposure. Instead of sitting in a wheelchair, he could walk on his arms, and moved along pretty quickly! The shtick was he was hopping around in a hotel getting caught on camera in bed with other guests' girlfriends! Then after he was caught.. he would chase the boyfriend, who was so shocked to find his woman in bed with this guy... and stunned to be chased by this legless guy sleeping with his woman. The whole premise was so bizarre… yet wildly amusing as is the rest of Jerry’s crazy festival of wackiness. The show has made him a multi-millionaire and it sure beats being the Mayor of Cincinnati.

13. Leno - I don’t like him. He gets big ratings. He’s been on for many many years so he gets points for longevity. The fact that he beats Letterman in the ratings show you can't account for taste. Pretty interesting that his announcer is Stuttering John.

12. Regis - The only host whose talk show AND game show made the top 14 lists on the Nate’s World blog! He’s been holding down that goofy show for 20 years with a variety of annoying co-hosts… the last few years with Kelly Ripa after Kathie Lee bolted to enjoy life with Frank Gifford.

11. Conan - The little engine that could. His premiere in the early 90s as the successor to Letterman was savaged by the critics.. But he persevered and his show chugs on.. And he has now been on in the NBC 1230 slot longer than Letterman.. which just goes to show that Letterman got an earlier spot quicker than Conan. Nonetheless, he will move up to The Tonight Show when Leno moves on. Thank God!

10. Jon Stewart - My heart feels he should rank higher. I used to love his old talk shows that were on MTV and in syndication. Nonetheless, I just cant seem to get into The Daily Show.. I watch too much TV as it is.. And I just don’t have the time to watch another show with any regularity.. Especially in the 11 o’clock hour when I watch Chuck and Sue and The Family Guy… (just got back into those crazy Griffins after GSN took Match Game out of the 1130 spot!)

9. Dick Cavett - Gotta balance out the craziness of Springer with some intellect. He along with Tony Randall were probably the truest renaissance men of our generation, and Cavett was able to handle any kind of guest. His plodding methodical dry questioning was quite entertaining, and it was clear to those watching that he was the smartest man on the stage. He once dropped an F-Bomb on a live Imus show.. I almost fell out of my car when I heard it!

8. Tom Snyder - The King of 1230 in the morning.. First hosting the Tomorrow Show, and later The Late Late Show on CBS.. He even anchored Eyewitness News back in the 80s. The eyebrows.. The cigarettes.. The crazy laugh and his little world of inside jokes that only he found funny.. (“Hey we’re also on the radio… let’s have a simultini!”)

Tune in next week for the rest of the list!


Pumpstradamus said...

Tom Snyder... any relation to David? ;) Seriously, I was a big fan of Tom's, I enjoyed him on CNBC in the '90s. The great moment that sticks out in my mind was when his guest, comedian David Steinberg, was discussing Dick Shawn's reaction to the size of Milton Berle's freakishly-endowed shmeckle ("I was in a steam room in a Las Vegas hotel and, well, let me just say, when Milton walked in, I thought he had brought his son"), and Tom broke down in his trademark "HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH!!" hysterics.

As for Joe Franklin... When my grandmother was a bookkeeper in the early '80s, she had a dreary co-worker whose husband was a lounge singer with a bad voice and a bad toupee. The doofus somehow got himself and his sparkling sequined suit on the Joe Franklin Show (I remember recording it at 1:30 a.m. on our very first VCR (not a Betamax!)..... Man, between his acid-trip drone chanting and Joe's electrifying personality, that program should have been called "The Nyquil Show"!

Dangerspouse said...

I just KNEW you'd be able to identify those losers for me! Birds of a feather, and all that ;) You're still the king, Natey!