Entertainment TV Comedy kings: who’s the best late night host ever?
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Comedy kings: who’s the best late night host ever?

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The realm of late night television is in the midst of a shakeup. While beloved old hands announce their retirement to a collective sigh of disappointment, a handful of young upstarts arrive to fill the void.

The recent announcement of 31-year-old comedian Trevor Noah as Jon Stewart’s replacement on The Daily Show completes the transition period.

• Trevor Noah: Jon Stewart’s replacement
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Since the beginning of last year, James Corden has subbed in for Craig Ferguson, Larry Wilmore has slotted into Stephen Colbert’s former spot and Seth Meyers filled Jimmy Fallon’s empty Late Night spot.

Meanwhile, John Oliver’s star continues to rise internationally, indicating he may soon be a dominant force in evening television.

As the new league settles in, it’s time to pay tribute to the familiar faces of the last two decades. Here, we count down the best late show hosts of the last decade, based on their popularity, experience and lasting influence.

8. Craig Ferguson

The Scottish-born stand up comedian made a difficult time slot his own with his quirky/creepy brand of charm, scoring several Emmy nominations and a surprisingly large audience of insomniacs.

Show: The Late Late Show (2005-2014)

Years behind the desk: 10

Current ratings: N/A

Net worth: approximately $25 million

Twitter following: 2.15 million

7. Jimmy Kimmel

The home of the inspired viral video series “Mean Tweets” and a series of other shareable regular spots, Kimmel represents a kind of funny everyman whose brilliance lies in his low-key delivery and numerous celebrity friends and collaborators.

Show: Jimmy Kimmel Live! (2003-)

Years behind the desk: 12

Current ratings: around 2.5 million viewers per episode.

Net worth: approximately $35 million.

Twitter following: 5.05 million

6. Jimmy Fallon

With a family-friendly brand of late night humour, Fallon’s meteoric rise from Saturday Night Live to his own show has been swift and well-deserved. Skewing to a slightly younger audience, Fallon’s effortless rapport with every guest sets him apart. He’s also a great lip-syncher.

Show: Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (2009-2014), The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (2014-).

Years behind the desk: Seven

Current ratings: around 3 million viewers per episode.

Net worth: $25 million

Twitter following: 23.5 million

5. Stephen Colbert

Starting his late night life as a brilliant political satirist, Colbert is about to cross over to the mainstream by replacing David Letterman on The Late Show. He’s undeniably intelligent, hilarious and eminently likeable – a lethal package.

Show: The Colbert Report (2005-2014), The Late Show (2015-).

Years behind the desk: 10

Current ratings: N/A

Net worth: $45 million

Twitter following: 7.61 million

4. Jon Stewart

With a guest list that includes both teen heart throbs and political powerhouses, Stewart’s appeal is universal. Provocative and controversial material delivered with a wink is Stewart’s schtick, and he’s more than clever enough to carry it off.

Show: The Daily Show (1999-).

Years behind the desk: 16

Current ratings: 1.5 million viewers per episode.

Net worth: $80 million

Twitter following: 3.35 million

3. Jay Leno

Despite a somewhat anti-climactic end with his short-lived and critically panned second Tonight Show, Jay Leno was a name long synonymous with late night television. The native New Yorker had an air of authority that made him a household name and kept him on television screens for more than two decades.

Show: The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (1992-2009), The Jay Leno Show (2009-2010), The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (2010-2014).

Years behind the desk: 22

Current ratings: N/A

Net worth: $350 million

Twitter following: 665,000

2. Conan O’Brian

The gawky tall redhead with the penchant for physical comedy has come back from the brink a couple of times to secure his place as a late night leader. O’Brien’s interviews are funny but, more importantly, insightful.

Show: Late Night (1993-2009), The Tonight Show (2009-2010), Conan (2010-present).

Years behind the desk: 22

Current ratings: around 800,000 viewers per episode

Net worth: $75 million

Twitter following: 15.8 million

1. David Letterman

There’s a reason Letterman’s career has spanned more than 30 years. Relatively baby-faced when he first took the chair in 1982, he is one of the few remaining originals on television. His interviews range from scathing to side-splitting and his laidback approach and trademark uncomfortable pauses make him the perfect counterpart to the cast of colourful characters who grace his couch.

Show: Late Night with David Letterman (1982-1993) Late Show with David Letterman (1993-2015).

Years behind the desk: 33

Current ratings: 2.8 million per episode

Net worth: $400 million

Twitter following: 320,000

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