It can be hard to keep up with late-night TV shows and still get a healthy night’s sleep—which is a shame since there’s a lot of great late-night programs on the air these days. Luckily, the Internet lets you stream a lot of the stuff you might miss—for free—and there’s even some new, Internet-original shows in the interview format that are worth watching.
The Daily Show
Thedailyshow.com, a few weeks of archives, new episodes available the next morning.
For the first significant period of time since Jon Stewart took over almost a decade and a half ago, The Daily Show (Comedy Central, 1997–2013) has a new (temporary) host. Regular corespondent John Oliver is taking over for a three-month stint while Stewart directs his first feature film, and so far at least the transition has been largely painless (if a little less interesting than some had hoped). In his first night hosting, Oliver made it very clear that he could step into Stewart’s shoes and serve as an excellent fill-in host, but if you’re a big fan of John Oliver from some of the projects he’s done outside of The Daily Show, like his regular podcast, you might be disappointed to see how closely he sticks to the show’s traditional script. Of course, The Daily Show’s format under Stewart is generally strong so it’s hard to complain too much about Oliver just giving us more of a great thing, but here’s hoping that as his three months behind the desk continue he’ll step out a bit more from Stewart’s shadow.
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
First season available on YouTube. Second season episodes premiere on Thursdays.
If the traditional interview formats of late-night shows are somewhat boring to you, then the Internet’s proved a great medium for twists on the format, and there’s hardly an odder one anywhere than Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (YouTube, 2012-Present). In each episode, Jerry Seinfeld (at top) indulges in his loves of coffee, vintage cars, and talking with other comedians simultaneously. While that format could seem annoyingly self-indulgent, the show manages to make it feel more like a natural way for Seinfeld to chat with his friends. The multiple draws also mean each episode usually has something to make it worth watching. If you don’t enjoy an episode’s particular comedian, you might still enjoy the car Seinfeld picks for the interview (Seinfeld’s car collection reportedly rivals even Jay Leno’s so he’s got a few to choose from) or maybe you’ll just enjoy whatever coffee shop or diner Seinfeld and his guest stop into for their discussion. It’s not the deepest interview program you’ll ever find, but it’s fast-paced and fun, especially for comedy fans.
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon
Hulu, 16 most-recent episodes available.
Here’s a good question: When did Jimmy Fallon become one of the funniest guys on television? Somehow between taking over Late Night (NBC, 1982-Present) after Conan’s departure, and the announcement earlier this year that he’d be taking over the Tonight Show in 2014, Fallon has gone from one of my least favorite SNL players to a guy I’m excited to see take over for Jay Leno next year. Part of that is probably the unusual chemistry of his show: Choosing The Roots as his house band has let him plan some really amazing musical numbers on the show, including the various History of Rap numbers with Justin Timberlake you’ve probably seen somewhere. But the lion’s share of the credit has to go to Fallon himself, who’s proved a much more adept interviewer than I ever would have expected, and revealed talents not just as a sketch performer but as a singer and dancer that his time on SNL (or in movies like Taxi) never really indicated.
7 Minutes in Heaven
Season one on YouTube, season two available on Hulu.
Another interview show with a gimmick that largely interviews comedians, Seven Minutes in Heaven (YouTube, 2011, Hulu, 2012-Present) is the brainchild of SNL vet Mike O’Brien. Every installment features a short interview with O’Brien in a closet and ends with him trying (and often failing) to sneak in a kiss on his guest. While that’s a cute bit, what raises the show above its premise is how entertaining O’Brien manages to make each interview, with a generally cheerful interview style and several recurring bits like “closet theater”—where O’Brien outlines a short scene for his guest to help him improv. If there’s any knock against the show, it’s that it’s hard to track down the show’s complete run. The first season is available on YouTube but more recent episodes have been premiering on Hulu. There’s also a single episode with John Hamm available on Yahoo Screen but that seems to be the only episode there.
The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson
CBS.com, most-recent episode streaming the next morning, previous two weeks also available.
The Late Late Show (CBS, 1995-Present) is, like the show title suggests, on pretty late. Which is probably how it gets away with quietly being one of the more innovative late night shows on the air. In recent years, Ferguson’s done an audience-free show where he just talked to Stephen Fry for an entire hour, done an episode where he replaced himself and all the regulars with puppets, and picked up the entire show and took it off to France and his native Scotland. He isn’t the first late night host to mess with a show’s format, but he’s the first in a long time to seem to do it out of a sense of adventure rather than one of necessity. There are probably stronger late night hosts on the air, and there are certainly ones that get more famous guests more regularly (coming on so late you’re after Letterman also has its disadvantages) but there’s a real sense with The Late Late Show that you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get—and in a rather formulaic late night world that can be its own strength.
Comedy Bang Bang (video podcast)
YouTube, new video episodes on Thursdays.
I’ve already sung the praises of IFC’s Comedy Bang Bang, an absurdist take on the interview show format. Now, however, the original Comedy Bang Bang podcast (YouTube, 2013) the show is based on, along with a few other podcasts from podcasting conglomerate Earwolf, has been added to the Video Podcast Network and begun recording their much longer audio shows for live broadcasts on YouTube. The podcast version of Comedy Bang Bang is a very different beast and a bit of an acquired taste: The longer format lets host Scott Aukerman stretch out bits and explore some of the shows more outlandish characters for an hour or more. If you’ve already consumed and grown to love the TV show’s first season, however, the video broadcasts of the audio show can provide a nice way to pass the time until IFC premiers the TV show’s second season in July.
David Daw has studied the history and future of television and has a master's in Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts from San Francisco State University along with a BA in genre fiction from NYU.