Johnny Carson’s 30-plus-year reign as the king of late-night television hosting “The Tonight Show” wielded enormous influence over the hosts who followed him, who behaved as if attaining that “throne” was the pinnacle of success in television. the entertainment world, fighting for accordingly.
Trevor Noah’s decision to step away from “The Daily Show,” after James Corden announced his plans to leave CBS’s “Late Late Show” next year, indicates that for a new generation of comedians, reaching the late-night position is already it is not necessarily considered a life sentence.
Carson’s direct heirs, David Letterman and Jay Leno, clearly saw “The Tonight Show” as the most coveted prize in television comedy. The third member of the trio to rise as part of the night shift after Carson gave everyone “A Very Sincere Goodnight” in 1992, Conan O’Brien, exhibited the same workhorse mentality, circling (albeit in different places), like his idol Letterman, for more than three decades.
Those who took over from that trio, spiritually if not literally, apparently remain equally committed to their seats, with Jimmy Kimmel recently extending his contract with ABC through a 23rd season, and Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon installed at CBS and NBC, respectively.
However, that reflects a mindset rooted in an earlier era of television, where people were perceived as creatures of habit, going to bed watching Carson year after year, regardless of who the guests were or how many weeks of vacation he took. towards the end of the season. his career
In that sense, “Saturday Night Live,” while a somewhat different animal, represents a symbol of the inertia that ruled television when it made its debut during the Gerald Ford administration, adding new faces to the machine but moving forward as the show grew. prepare for launch. its 48th season.
Still, having taken over the reins from Jon Stewart seven years ago, Noah made it clear that he still has comedic hills to climb that don’t include sitting behind a desk.
“After seven years, I feel like it’s time,” he said. “I realized that there is another part of my life that I want to continue exploring.”
On the plus side, increased latenight rotation will create opportunities for fresh voices and diverse talent, at a time when there has been a reduction in late-night series after everyone seemed to be piling into the pot.
In particular, the recent generation of late-night talent is dominated by those who started out working on Stewart’s version of “The Daily Show,” including Colbert, perennial Emmy winner John Oliver, Noah and Samantha Bee.
After some time in the wild, Stewart has settled on her version of a second act, one that has included plenty of activism for causes she believes in, highlighting her advocacy on behalf of veterans, as well as a show for Apple TV+. . Letterman and Leno also haven’t emulated Carson’s decision to truly retire when he left “Tonight.”
It remains to be seen where Noah and Corden go from here. However, compared to the era of the night that defined Carson, we have moved into a different game of thrones.