Late Night Firsts: The First Guests Of TV’s Late Night Talk Show Hosts


When James Corden took over as host of the Late Late Show Monday on CBS, his first guest was somebody that everybody loves, America’s sweetheart, Tom Hanks. It’s a can’t miss choice for a first guest. Hanks is funny, conversational and energetic. He’s the type of guest that can set the tone for what a new late night talk show will be. James Corden put Tom Hanks through the paces for his very first show. So we took a look back at who were the first guests of everyone’s favorite late night talk show hosts.

Late Late Show With James Corden

March 23, 2014.  Tom Hanks was a perfect first guest.  He was funny, he was endearing and he set up a can’t miss first bit that killed on twitter.

Looking back, here’s the choices other talk show hosts made when it came to who would be the first person they sat down to talk with in late night television.

Late Night With David Letterman.

February 1, 1982.  When David Letterman started the Late Show in 1982, His first guest Bill Murray proved that this was not the Tonight Show. It started weird and stayed weird. It ended with Murray singing “Let’s get physical” by Olivia Newton John. It doesn’t seem cutting edge in 2015 because everyone has copied Dave’s laid back approach to Late Night TV. In 1982, it was revolutionary.

Jimmy Kimmel Live.

January 26, 2003.  Jimmy Kimmel started his show with a co-host Snoop Dog a la Mike Douglas. His first guest was George Clooney who brought a bottle of Volka. The network was not amused. Neither were critics. Jimmy beat the odds and will soon be the grand old man of late night TV.


Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

March 2, 2009.  If Jimmy Fallon was nervous going into his first talk show, “Late Night”, his choice for a first guest didn’t make it anymore comfortable. Robert De Niro, who’s not known for being a top conversationalist, was his first interview. Fallon tried to make a bit out of De Niro not being talkative, but then the actual interview had to start. Between De Niro’s reluctance to be there and Fallon asking multiple questions at once, Jimmy Fallon had to be considered a long shot to keep “Late Night” and no one could see him eventually taking over the Tonight Show.

Go to the 17:30 mark to see the awkwardness of Fallon and De Niro.

Found on Vimeo.

The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn.

People may have forgotten that Craig had the Daily Show before Jon Stewart or that he was on after Letterman. Craig takes a page out of Dave’s book by using Bill Murray as first guest.

Late Night with Conan O’Brien

September 13, 1993. When Conan was announced as the new host of Late Night, America replied with “Who?”. Conan was a writer and it took awhile for the critics and NBC to be sold, but Conan battled and gained viewers and won over the network so much that he was awarded the Tonight Show….for a few months. Conan’s first guest John Goodman came out to a video-taped standing ovation, a Mayor Dinkens lookalike and a swarm of paparazzi.

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

May 25, 1992. Johnny Carson had signed off May 22, 1992 and three days later, “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” premiered on NBC. Jay’s first guest in the new era of the “Tonight Show” was Billy Crystal. He performed for Jay Leno in a bit reminiscent of the way that Bette Midler has said goodbye to Carson just the Friday before. Crystal and Leno would form a bond that brought Billy back for Leno’s last show in 2009 and this other last show in 2014.

leno crystal

Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson.

January 3, 2005. Craig Ferguson wasn’t handed the Late Late Show. He actually competed against against other comics to get the job. Hugh Laurie was his guest before he even officially got the gig. You can see how comfortable and loose Ferguson was right from the beginning and the network saw it as well.

Late Night with Seth Meyers.

February 24, 2014. Seth Myers went from one of the best jobs in show business to one of the best jobs in show business. Hosting Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live to hosting Late Night. He brought in his friend Amy Poelher and made the transition look really easy. Critics have been kind and Seth seems to be as comfortable as anyone has ever been to host a Network talk show.

The Pete Holmes Show.

October 28, 2013. Damn you America, you always say you want something different and Pete Holmes gave it to you. Pete did a really different and funny show and picked for his first guest his friend Kumail Nanjiani. It was fresh, funny and entertaining but never picked up the audience you need to survive. Maybe he should have booked Tom Hanks.

Chelsea Lately.

July 16, 2007. Chelsea Handler started her 7 year run on E! with “Jackass” legend, Steve-O. Of course, right away Chelsea’s first show turned to a discussion about masturbating and boobs, plus Steve-O had his pants down almost instantly. This became the standard “nothing-is-off-limits” tone of the show.


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