Late night talk shows are America’s contribution to the world of television. But what exactly are “late night talk shows” and how, why and when did they originate? Ten minutes’ worth of surfing on the internet gave me the answers to all these questions. They originally began in the 1940-50s in the United States as variety shows because they showcased different kinds of entertainment including comedy, music and dance numbers, etc. These genres were not the main focus of American television otherwise (as compared to newscasting, current affairs,etc.) and hence they had a specific time slot assigned to them. This time slot was 7:00-10:00 pm in the evening when it was common for most families to spend time together indoors post dinner.
The evolution of these variety shows resulted in the origin of the late night talk shows. They too started off as entertainment programmes and this particular aspect of theirs has prevailed. Even today, if you switch on your TV and browse through the menu, you’ll find that all the channels airing late night talk shows fall under the entertainment banner. This is because the main highlights of these show include opening monologues, stand up comedy, celebrity interviews and often a live studio audience.
However in the last decade, there has been a slight change in the theme of these shows. 2015 & 2016 saw a major turnover in the international late night talk show business and since then the community has only grown. Although some of the most popular ones including The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, The Late Late Show with James Corden, Late Night with Seth Meyers, Jimmy Kimmel Live, etc. continue to serve as entertainment programmes, they have also emerged as a strategic genre in political campaigning. Since majority of their viewers fall under the ages of 16-30, it has really made the American and European public (especially the youth) aware about the political situation and happenings of their country.
If we take a look at our own country, we can notice that India has witnessed a sudden increase in the number of stand up comedians in the last couple of years. Although the stand up comedians that we have today do a bloody good job of delivering quality content, not many of them have been successful in using humour as a means to educate the masses and to focus on the current affairs of our country. If we have to talk about ‘talk shows’ specifically, although shows like Koffee with Karan, BFFs with Vogue or Comedy Nights with Kapil have proven to be crowd pleasers, they don’t provide us with anything more than gossip from the Bollywood industry.
There is no doubt that these Indian shows are – a)doing great business in and outside our country and also b)doing a remarkable job of pleasing the Indian audience. However they haven’t yet emerged as platforms which discuss the social, cultural and political issues of our country. Perhaps 2020 marks the beginning of a new era in Indian television where the element of humour isn’t reserved for entertainment purposes only but used as a means to increase awareness about the political and other important happenings of our country in a harmlessly jocular capacity.