I can’t lie, I’m a sucker for talk shows.
Talk shows, (and their older cousin, variety shows) are relics of a bygone era. Back when television was all recorded LIVE (that’s right, things weren’t taped in the early days, let alone “dark and gritty), one of the most popular formats was the talk show.
The premise seemed simple enough. A host would bring on someone else (either a celebrity or someone with an extraordinary talent) and just chat for four to seven minutes at a time. The audience at home got to know more about the celebrity being interviewed, while the host worked at keeping the conversation as lively as possible. For that host, it’s quintessential show business: Making hard work look as effortless as a conversation.
I had the pleasure of seeing an episode of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” in 2012. I say “pleasure” with all seriousness as I feel I’m the only person under the age of thirty who’s a Jay Leno fan. The show, which by then was no longer in the American zeitgeist following the NBC Late Night Scandal, was still very enjoyable. Sitting in the audience, I had an itching (or as I like to call it “positive jealously”) due to the fact I felt that it should be me up there hosting my own program. But why? Sure the host gets his name on the marquee, but honestly a talk show is only as strong as its guests. If not, I could just as easily start a “talk show” right now by going around my neighborhood door to door.
But that’s the beauty of the format: The other job as a host to to show “another side” of your guests. To me, that’s the fun part. Maybe it’s something outrageous like having a politician sing on camera. Maybe a rock band co-hosts a cooking segment. Or just maybe that “snot-nosed starlet” breaks down on camera while describing how hard it is to be a former teen idol.
On our podcast “Entertainment Distilled,” we regularly ask the question, “If you were a talk show host, who would you have on your show and why?” Usually it’s a question we answer pretty quickly, but is it odd that I think about that question almost daily? What would I ask the president if he just so happened to stop by my living room? What about that athlete who just won the championship for his team? If I had a daytime talk show a la Ellen or Queen Latifah, what outlandish gift would I give away to my audience?
What about you? What would your talk show look like?