Saturday Tips: Levels of Paid Achievement - Late Night Shows

Tip #4 2018

Levels of Achievement:

Paid TV Spots, Late Night Shows, 5 Minute Spots

The holy grail for comics is getting their first late night TV spot. Many years ago the "Tonight Show" was the gatekeeper to anoint the next hot young comic. Having a good set and then getting invited to the couch to speak to Johnny Carson was a major career maker for many young comics. Today there isn't one late night show that has the power of the old "Tonight Show". However, now there are many more shows, avenues and opportunities for young comics that didn't exist thirty years ago. Below, I list the late night shows and explain their key differences. Comics are still being featured on late night talk shows, but there are noticeably fewer spots today than just a few years ago. Shows are more eager to create a "viral moment" from their shows involving an A-list celebrity, rather than showcase an unknown comic.


5 minute spots on Late night TV shows.

It's important to understand all the differences that each late night host brings to their respective shows. They all have very defined comedic styles and political philosophies that's reflected in the overall tone of the show. 

For example, Colbert does so much anti-Trump stuff on the show that his bookers actively look for edgy comedians who  are not talking about Trump in their set. Before submitting a set, it's important to really know what defines the host of the show you're submitting to. Here is a rundown of the comedic and political styles of the major late night hosts.


Stephen Colbert:

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, leader of the "Resistance", is fearless about taking on Donald Trump relentlessly. Making fun of the Trump administration is a theme that dominates Colbert's monologues and jokes. Though others may take on Trump, Colbert is definitely leading the charge with extremely cutting bits, sketches and characters. Comedic sensibilities for his show:Political, Edgy, smart, and yet playful.

*Important caveat* -Colbert's producers have started taping multiple comics doing their sets all on one night with no ability to meet Colbert or speak with him. Though getting on the show is major step for any young comic, not being able to meet Colbert is a negative. Other shows have not adopted this practice.


Jimmy Kimmel: 

Kimmel is known as a prankster and doing "man on the street interviews". He's evolved and become very political but in a different way than Colbert. Kimmel has personalized politics in a very powerful way by incorporating things in his show like his infant son's health issues to highlight the major problems with healthcare in the U.S. He challenged Senator Bill Cassidy and accused him of "lying to my face" about his healthcare bill. He has challenged former senate candidate Roy Moore to a fight. Kimmel has been fearless about challenging politicians by name and calling them out.

Comedic sensibilities for prospective comics: Edgy and hip, but surprisingly not political (perhaps that's their way of balancing out the political content on the show).


Jimmy Fallon: 

Fallon has a completely different comedic style and philosophy than Kimmel and Colbert. He likes to play games with celebs and fawns over them (he might do more laughing than actual talking). He's not political and both his banter and featured comedians reflect that. Fallon has regulars that he'll often bring on rather than showcasing new acts.

Comedic sensibilities for his show: safe, not edgy and mainstream. This presents an opportunity for comics who are not political.


Conan O'Brien:

 Conan has a history of showcasing more comics per year than the other shows. He's one of the oldest hosts and has maintained a weekly featuring of a comedian. Colbert and Kimmel are showcasing comics much less often compared to Conan. The style of his show is geared toward college students, which defines the comedians featured on the show..

Comedic sensibilities- Edgy, adventurous, and more diverse-- specifically geared to colleges students.


Comedian late night pay rate:

Comics who perform their own original material on a late night talk show are paid SAG/AFTRA scale of $1,505. They're listed as a specialty act because they both write and perform their own material. However, if they are invited to  simply sit on the couch and speak with the host but not perform they are paid $469.50.


Takeaways: Make sure you know the comedic style of the shows you are submitting too.

Andrew EngelComment