The Late Late Show (U.S. TV series)

For the current incarnation of this show, see The Late Late Show with James Corden.
The Late Late Show
Created by David Letterman
Peter Lassally
Presented by
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes 777 (under Snyder)
1,190 (under Kilborn)
2,058 (under Ferguson)
124 (under guest hosts, total)
276 (under Corden)
Total: 4,161
Location(s) CBS Television City
Los Angeles, California
Production company(s)
Original network CBS
Picture format
Original release January 9, 1995 (1995-01-09) – present (present)
Preceded by Crimetime After Primetime
Related shows Late Show
External links

The Late Late Show is an American late-night television talk and variety show on CBS. It first aired in January 1995, with host Tom Snyder, followed by Craig Kilborn and Craig Ferguson. It is currently hosted by James Corden. The show originates from CBS Television City in Los Angeles.


The show differed from most of the other extant late-night talk shows during its first two decades on air in that it did not use a house band or an in-studio announcer. The traditional opening monologue also tended to be different from that of other late night shows tending to avoid jokes with punch lines during Snyder and Ferguson's tenures in favour of a short conversational introduction when Snyder was host and a cold opening featuring either a musical parody, audience interaction, a short sketch or interaction between Ferguson and Geoff Peterson followed by an anecdotal stream of consciousness introduction during most of Ferguson's years. While Craig Kilborn opened with a monologue it tended to be shorter than that used by other late shows. Corden's approach to the monologue has been a hybrid of topical punchline jokes and a stream of consciousness, although it is usually very short, as the show tends to favor longer recorded sections.


Tom Snyder (1995–99)

The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder logo

Tom Snyder hosted the program from its inception in January 1995 until March 1999. The choice of Snyder as host was made by David Letterman, whose contract with CBS gave him (via production company Worldwide Pants) the power to produce the show in the timeslot immediately after his own program and who had an affinity for Snyder, whose NBC late night series Tomorrow had been succeeded by Late Night with David Letterman. The time slot on CBS previously carried repeats of Crimetime After Primetime. Snyder departed CNBC to host the Late Late Show on CBS.[1]

Letterman and Snyder had a long history together: a 1978 Tomorrow episode hosted by Snyder was almost exclusively devoted to a long interview with up-and-coming new comedy talents Letterman, Billy Crystal and Merrill Markoe. And in 1982, when Tomorrow was canceled by NBC, Letterman's series Late Night with David Letterman, succeeded Tomorrow in the timeslot, and Snyder had been offered but refused a move to after Late Night by NBC.

Snyder's show featured a mix of celebrities, politicians and other newsmakers, but was otherwise quite unlike the program hosted by Letterman. Snyder was a former newsman, not a comedian, and his show featured an intimate interview format with no studio audience present, similar to his old Tomorrow show of the 1970s, or to Charlie Rose show and Later, which had abandoned the format the previous year. Though the show lacked a studio audience, Snyder still frequently gave extended conversational monologues, many of which contained jokes that prompted audible laughter from the off-camera production staff. Without the need for an audience, the show originated from the intimate Studio 58 at CBS Television City.

Throughout most of the show's run, it was also simulcast over some CBS Radio stations,[2] and Snyder accepted calls from viewers/listeners somewhat in the manner of Larry King; to accommodate this, the show was broadcast live in the Eastern and Central United States and on radio in the west, a rarity for late-night talk shows that had otherwise transitioned to tape, though due to existing syndication contracts and resistance to give up local control of timeslots, many stations, such as WJZ-TV in Baltimore, would delay it to as late as 3:05 a.m. When Snyder was on vacation, the show featured guest hosts such as Jon Stewart or Janeane Garofalo.

Saxophonist David Sanborn composed and performed the theme music and several other songs featured on the show, all of which were smooth jazz pieces to fit the show's low-key, middle-of-the-night mood. Sanborn had previously been a guest saxophonist in The World's Most Dangerous Band during Late Night with David Letterman. Unlike other late-night shows, The Late Late Show did not have a house band (a tradition that carried on to its iterations under Kilborn and Ferguson) or any announcer, except for the last episode, when Snyder allowed one of his staff members to announce an introduction.

Letterman had offered the Late Late spot to Garry Shandling, a former permanent guest host of the Tonight Show but Shandling turned the offer down in favour of The Larry Sanders Show[3] (NBC had previously approached Shandling about succeeding Letterman on Late Night but he had also declined that offer). Letterman then insisted on Snyder despite CBS wanting a younger host with a comedy background and a more traditional late night talk variety format.[4] In 1998, the network reportedly reasserted its desire for a host who could attract a younger demographic and asked Worldwide Pants not to renew Snyder's contract when it expired in September 1999,[5] though other reports portray the decision to leave as Snyder's decision,[6] with Snyder informing management that he wished to depart before his contract ended, as early as January 1999.[7]

Longtime late night television producer Peter Lassally was executive producer of Snyder's iteration of the program and mentored Jon Stewart when he was a guest host filling in for Snyder.[8]

Craig Kilborn (1999–2004)

When Snyder announced he was leaving, the show was reformatted to resemble Letterman and other major late-night talk programs. Craig Kilborn took over in March 1999, having left The Daily Show to become the new Late Late Show host (previously he was an anchor on ESPN's SportsCenter).

When Kilborn was on the show, it began with an image of a full moon wavering behind gray stratus clouds, to the tuning of an orchestra, while the announcer—the recorded, modulated voice of Kilborn himself—blurted out, "From the gorgeous, gorgeous Hollywood Hills in sunny California, it's your Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn. Tonight," and then the guests were announced, backed by the show's theme song, composed by Neil Finn. Then Kilborn was presented, "Ladies and gentlemen, *pause* Mister Craig Kilborn", with the 1970s disco band Wild Cherry song "Play That Funky Music".

After Kilborn's stand-up monologue, he walked to his "Bavarian oak desk" while Finn's theme song continued playing with the chorus "The Late Late Show is starting. The Late Late Show is starting now." The "Desk Chat" was said to be Craig's favorite part of the show.

During later seasons, the opening consisted of shots of various Los Angeles hotspots accompanied by a new theme song performed and written by Chris Isaak. For this new theme song, Kilborn would be played to the desk with a chorus of "The Late Late Show is starting".

The show continued to originate from Studio 58 throughout Kilborn's tenure as host.

Segments included:

Kilborn left the program on August 27, 2004, two weeks after surprising executives at CBS and Worldwide Pants by announcing after several weeks of talks that he was not seeking a contract renewal.[9] In a June 2010 interview, Kilborn stated that he left late night television due to his belief that the late night timeslot was too crowded for him to succeed.[10]

Much of Kilborn's format, including the use of a desk for news-based comedy and doubling as host and announcer, would be adopted by Stephen Colbert (himself an alumnus of The Daily Show) when Colbert took over The Late Show.

Transition (September–December 2004)

With Kilborn only announcing in early August that he would not be returning to the Late Late Show in the fall, CBS and Worldwide Pants executives decided to have a series of guest hosts helm the show in on-air auditions. While initially saying they would choose a permanent host by the end of October, the process ended up extending into December. Drew Carey was the first guest host on September 20, 2004 and again the following night.[11] Subsequent guest hosts included: Jason Alexander, Jeff Altman, Tom Arnold, Michael Ian Black, Tom Caltabiano, Adam Carolla, Tom Dreesen, David Duchovny, Damien Fahey, Craig Ferguson, Jim Gaffigan, Ana Gasteyer, David Alan Grier, D.L. Hughley, Lisa Joyner, Donal Logue, Rosie Perez, Ahmad Rashad, Jim Rome, Aisha Tyler, and The Late Late Show head writer Michael "Gibby" Gibbons[12] culminating in four finalists being involved for week long final tryouts: Craig Ferguson, D. L. Hughley, Damien Fahey, and Michael Ian Black. It was announced on December 7, 2004 that Ferguson, a Scottish comedian best known from his role as Mr. Wick on The Drew Carey Show, was to become Kilborn's permanent replacement. David Letterman later said he made the selection based on the recommendation of Peter Lassally.[13]

Following the conclusion of the on-air auditions on December 3, 2004, guest hosts continued to fill out the roster until the end of the year and included: Jason Alexander, Donal Logue, David Alan Grier, Aisha Tyler, Drew Carey, Sara Rue, John Witherspoon, Joe Buck, Susan Sarandon, Don Cheadle, Daryl Mitchell, Bob Saget, Jim Rome, Ana Gasteyer, Damien Fahey and D.L. Hughley.[14]

Craig Ferguson (2005–14)

The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson logo

Under Craig Ferguson's tenure as host, the show started with a cold open,[15] followed by opening credits and a commercial break. A loose comic monologue then followed, consistently including a greeting ("Welcome to Los Angeles, California, welcome to the Late Late Show, I am your host, TV's Craig Ferguson") and the proclamation that "It's a great day for America, everybody!".[16]

From 2010 the monologue also included banter with Geoff Peterson, his "robot skeleton sidekick", voiced and controlled by Josh Robert Thompson. This animatronic was constructed by the Mythbusters' Grant Imahara but went through many revisions, the most important was the regular live control and voicing by Thompson. This changed the dynamic of the show as Ferguson had a recurring 'sidekick' to banter with.

After another commercial break, the banter continued with Ferguson sitting behind a desk. He usually read and responded to viewer e-mail and (since February 2010[17]) Twitter messages for random responses to viewer questions.

During segments Ferguson occasionally received phone calls (voiced by Thompson) from a variety of characters, including celebrities, the 'very shy' band (Alfredo Sauce and the Shy Guys) allegedly hiding behind the set's curtain, room service, a duplicate Geoff, and Miriam, a possible stalker who confused Ferguson with former host Craig Kilborn.

Ferguson called his Twitter followers his "robot skeleton army."[18]

Generally one or two celebrities were interviewed; Ferguson started each by dramatically ripping up note cards written for the interview, "signalling to the audience, and to the guest, that this conversation need not be rigidly managed."[19] At the end of an interview, Ferguson usually asked his guest to engage in one of various rituals; options included "Awkward Pause", "Mouth Organ", "Guess What the Queen is Thinking", the "Big Cash Prize," or simply joining Ferguson in throwing Frisbees at the show's "horse," Secretariat (actually two interns dressed in a pantomime horse costume). Occasionally Craig requested Thompson (as Geoff) to interpret the thoughts of Secretariat or others, in one of a variety of celebrity voices, most notably Morgan Freeman. During a guest appearance, Morgan Freeman described Thompson's prompted vocal impression of himself as "impeccable".

Sometimes the show featured a stand-up comedian or a musical guest, the latter of which is typically pre-taped.[16]

Ferguson incorporated various running gags. Early examples included themed weeks such as "Crab Week", "Magic Week" and "Shark Week". Shark Week was apparently a reference to Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, and that channel, saying that Ferguson has always loved Shark Week, scheduled him for an appearance on August 4, 2010.[20] A "photo of Paul McCartney" joke (wherein Ferguson called for a photo of McCartney, which was actually a photo of actress Angela Lansbury and vice versa); the show often used variations of this gag featuring other pairs of look-alike celebrities, such as Cher being shown as Marilyn Manson,[21] and a picture of Ann Coulter being shown whenever Ferguson requested a photo of Tom Petty.

The show ended with "What Did We Learn on the Show Tonight, Craig?", a segment that started with an animation of a kitten and in which Ferguson "removes his tie, puts his feet on his desk, and summarizes the preceding hour of TV."[22] Since the introduction of the Geoff character, Ferguson usually discussed the day's lesson with the robot.

Ferguson's tenure included the show's first high definition broadcast, on August 31, 2009. In March 2010, the Late Late Show won the Peabody Award for Excellence in Television for its "Evening with Archbishop Desmond Tutu" episode.[23] According to the Peabody Board, "the Scottish-born Ferguson has made late-night television safe again for ideas."[24]

The show had Peter Lassally as its executive producer through Ferguson's entire tenure. Lassally had previously been executive producer of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Late Night with David Letterman, and Late Show with David Letterman.

In April 2012, CBS announced that they had reached an agreement with Ferguson to extend his contract through 2014. As part of the deal, the network began co-producing The Late Late Show for the first time.[25]

From the beginning of Ferguson's tenure as host until August 10, 2012, The Late Late Show continued to originate from Studio 58 at CBS Television City, as it had dating back to the show's origins under Snyder. Ferguson often joked about the studio's small size, leaky roof, and poor lighting. On August 27, 2012, the program moved down the hall to the much larger Studio 56. Though the look of the main desk set was similar to the one in Studio 58, the extra space in Studio 56 allowed for more audience seating, a fireplace set for Geoff Peterson, an entrance & monologue set, a musical performance area, as well as a stable set for the show's pantomime horse, Secretariat.

Ferguson's departure

Ferguson's contract was set to expire in June 2014.[26] His contract called for him to be first in line to replace David Letterman as host of the Late Show. Because CBS chose Stephen Colbert for that position, Ferguson reportedly received a windfall of as much as $10,000,000.[27]

On April 28, 2014, Craig Ferguson announced he would leave The Late Late Show at the end of the year.[28] He had reportedly made the decision prior to Letterman's announcement but agreed to delay making his own decision public until the reaction to Letterman's decision had died down. He had also originally intended to leave in the summer of 2014 but agreed to stay until the end of the year to give CBS more time to find a successor.[29] His last show was December 19, 2014 and began with Ferguson performing "Bang Your Drum" with many of his guests over the years banging drums, including Desmond Tutu. The show featured Jay Leno as Ferguson's guest and cameos by Bob Newhart and Drew Carey in the closing segment, a parody of the iconic finales of Newhart, The Sopranos and St. Elsewhere.[30][31][32]

Transition (January–March 2015)

In the interim between Ferguson's departure in December 2014 and James Corden's premiere on March 23, 2015, CBS scheduled a number of guest hosts to helm the program. Repeats of Ferguson's show finished out 2014. Drew Carey hosted the week of January 5 and did so again the week of March 2. Other guest hosts included filmmaker Judd Apatow, actor Will Arnett, comedian Wayne Brady, comedian Whitney Cummings, comedian Jim Gaffigan, comedian Billy Gardell, actor Sean Hayes, comedian Thomas Lennon, musician John Mayer, actor Kunal Nayyar, actor Adam Pally, actress Lauren Graham, and broadcaster Regis Philbin. In addition, the daytime show The Talk aired a special late night version in the week of January 12.[33] Peter Lassally remained executive producer during this period and retired from television after a six decade career with the taping of Arnett's show on February 20, 2015, in which Lassally appeared in a cameo. Shows that aired for the rest of February, into March, had been pre-recorded in January for later broadcast in order to give CBS time to demolish the Ferguson set and build a new set for Corden's show. Shows taped by Cummings, Philbin and Pally originated from New York and were recorded without an audience from Studio 57 at the CBS Broadcast Center, the home studio for CBS This Morning. Repeats were to fill out the two weeks between the final new Carey hosted show on March 6 and the premiere of Corden's show on the 23rd.

James Corden (2015–present)

On September 8, 2014, CBS announced that James Corden would succeed Ferguson as host on March 23, 2015.[34][35][36] His show, originally slated to premiere on March 9, 2015, CBS pushed back its premiere to March 23, 2015 in December 2014, in order to use the NCAA basketball tournament as a means of promoting Corden's debut,[37] and prevent a situation where two episodes would be pre-empted during the first week of the tournament. Corden's hosting tenure is the first to have a house band (the lack thereof having been a running joke during Ferguson's tenure); Reggie Watts will serve as the franchise's first bandleader.[38]

In keeping with customs employed on British chat shows, Corden interviews all of the nightly guests at once, opting for a more conversational style. He also eschews sitting behind the set's desk during the interview portion of the show, using it only for comedy bits and direct addresses to the audience. Corden's version of the show also originates from Studio 56 on a set that includes a bar. His segment on "Carpool Karaoke" where stars sing their songs in cars became highly popular online and clips of the show became viral videos.[39]

David Letterman's contract included the right to control the time slot that follows his and produce the Late Late Show and it was his production company, Worldwide Pants, which selected previous hosts. With Letterman's departure, CBS became the sole producer of the show.[27]

List of hosts

Host Start date End date Episodes
Tom Snyder January 9, 1995 March 26, 1999[40] 777
Craig Kilborn March 29, 1999[41] August 27, 2004 1,190
guest hosts[42] September 20, 2004[11] December 31, 2004[43] 79
Craig Ferguson January 3, 2005 December 19, 2014 2,058
guest hosts[44] January 5, 2015[45] March 6, 2015 45
James Corden March 23, 2015[37] present 276


  1. Zurawik, David (9 January 1995). "After a lo-o-o-ong wait, it's Tom Snyder TURNED ON IN L.A.". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
  2. "Late Late Show With Tom Snyder And Steve Mason". Archived from the original on December 6, 1998. Retrieved 30 December 2014.
  3. "Garry Shandling". Archive of American Television.
  4. "Tom Snyder To Follow The Letterman Show? It's Being Discussed". philly-archives.
  5. "Tom Snyder".
  6. "Daily Show Guy Goes Late Late Show". E! Online.
  7. Richard Katz. "CBS taps Kilborn for Snyder slot". Variety.
  8. "The Host Whisperer". New York Times. July 17, 2005. Retrieved February 21, 2015.
  9. "For now, guests will fill Kilborn's chair". Chicago Tribune. August 25, 2004. Retrieved December 27, 2014.
  10. "Craig Kilborn on Good Day LA (The Kilborn File)". YouTube. Retrieved 2010-10-31.
  11. 1 2 "Carey to host `Late Late'". Chicago Tribune. September 20, 2014. Retrieved December 27, 2014.
  12. "Why CBS Should Audition Its Potential 'Late Late Show' Hosts On Air Again". SplitSider. May 29, 2014. Retrieved December 27, 2014.
  13. "Dave at Peace: The Rolling Stone Interview". Rolling Stone. September 18, 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-09-09.
  14. "Archive: September 2004 - December 2004".
  15. "The Late Late Show Video — The Late Late Show". November 3, 2011. Retrieved 2011-11-05.
  16. 1 2 "Craig Ferguson a standout at standup". St. Petersburg Times. August 16, 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-06-30. Retrieved 2009-09-01.
  17. "With @CraigyFerg, Craig Ferguson leaps into the Twitter fray". Christian Science Monitor. February 9, 2010. Retrieved 2010-02-12.
  18. Weilage, Mary (February 12, 2010). "Video: Craig Ferguson's Twitter followers and his robot-skeleton army". TechRepublic. Retrieved 2010-02-12.
  19. Bianculli, David (March 2009). "Late-Night TV Chess: Thanks to a Bishop, Craig Ferguson Is King". TV Worth Watching. Retrieved 2009-09-01.
  20. "Happy SHARK WEEK, SHARK BITES: ADVENTURES IN SHARK WEEK" (Press release). Retrieved 2010-07-30.
  21. e.g. "Do we have a picture of Cher?" from
  22. Bianculli, David (March 2009). "Late-Night TV Chess: Thanks to a Bishop, Craig Ferguson Is King". TV Worth Watching. Retrieved 2009-09-01. The show actually ended, as usual these days, with "What Did We Learn on the Show Tonight, Craig?", a segment in which the host removes his tie, shoes and socks and puts his barefeet on his desk, and summarizes the preceding hour of TV.
  23. Itzkoff, Dave (March 31, 2010). "'Glee' and Craig Ferguson Win Peabody Awards". New York Times. Retrieved May 25, 2010.
  24. "Complete List of Recipients of the 69th Annual Peabody Awards". Press release. University of Georgia. March 31, 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-01.
  26. "CBS' Nina Tassler: No Craig Ferguson Replacement Before Upfronts (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. April 30, 2014. Retrieved April 30, 2014.
  27. 1 2 "Craig Ferguson faces uncertain future at CBS with David Letterman gone, contract ending in 2015". New York Daily News. April 11, 2014. Retrieved April 12, 2014.
  28. Carter, Bill (April 28, 2014). "Craig Ferguson to Leave CBS at End of Year". New York Times. Retrieved April 28, 2014.
  29. "Craig Ferguson: 'I Wanted to Leave the Show Before I Stopped Enjoying It' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. April 30, 2014. Retrieved April 30, 2014.
  30. "'Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson': Jay Leno Gives Host Great Sendoff". Hollywood Life. December 20, 2014. Retrieved December 20, 2014.
  31. "Late Late Show: Craig Ferguson Says Goodbye With Incredible Twist Ending". December 19, 2014. Retrieved December 20, 2014.
  32. "Craig Ferguson Signs Off 'Late Late Show' with Jay Leno, Homage to Classic TV Finales". Variety. December 19, 2014. Retrieved December 20, 2014.
  33. "CBS Taps 'The Talk' and Guest Hosts To Fill 'Late Late Show'". Variety. November 26, 2014. Retrieved December 9, 2014.
  34. "CBS Sets Staff for James Corden's 'Late Late Show'". Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  35. Carter, Bill (September 8, 2014). "James Corden to Replace Craig Ferguson as Host of 'The Late, Late Show' on CBS". The New York Times. Retrieved September 8, 2014.
  36. Kondolojy, Amanda (October 23, 2014). "'The Late Late Show With James Corden' to Premiere Monday March 9, 2015". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved October 23, 2014.
  37. 1 2 "CBS Pushes James Corden's Debut On 'Late Late Show' To March 23". Variety. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
  38. "CBS Sets Staff for James Corden's 'Late Late Show'". Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  39. Jacob Bryant (February 10, 2016). "'The Late Late Show With James Corden' Breaks YouTube Record With Adele 'Carpool Karaoke'". Variety.
  40. CBS Final Late Late Show with Tom Snyder 3.26.99. YouTube. March 26, 1999.
  41. "Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn".
  42. Jason Alexander, Jeff Altman, Tom Arnold, Michael Ian Black, Tom Caltabiano, Drew Carey, Adam Carolla, Tom Dreesen, David Duchovny, Damien Fahey, Craig Ferguson, Jim Gaffigan, Ana Gasteyer, David Alan Grier, D.L. Hughley, Lisa Joyner, Donal Logue, Rosie Perez, Ahmad Rashad, Jim Rome, Aisha Tyler, Sara Rue, John Witherspoon, Joe Buck, Susan Sarandon, Don Cheadle, Daryl Mitchell, Bob Saget, and The Late Late Show's head writer Michael "Gibby" Gibbons guest hosted.
  43. "CBS and Worldwide Pants Announce Actor/Comedian Craig Ferguson as the New Host of CBS' the Late Late Show". CBS (press release). December 7, 2014. Retrieved December 27, 2014.
  44. Drew Carey, Julie Chen, Sara Gilbert, Sharon Osbourne, Sheryl Underwood, Aisha Tyler, Jim Gaffigan, Judd Apatow, Regis Philbin, Whitney Cummings, Adam Pally, Sean Hayes, John Mayer, Wayne Brady, Tom Lennon, Lauren Graham, Will Arnett, Billy Gardell, and Kunal Nayyar.
  45. "'Late Late Show' Guest Hosts Include Drew Carey & Judd Apatow Ahead Of Corden Debut". November 26, 2014. Retrieved 1 December 2014.
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