With Prime recently picking up The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, we look at the massive beast that is American late night comedy. Bill Carter has written two books about some of the seismic late night television manoeuvrings. 1994’s The Late Shift documented Jay Leno’s rise to be the successor of Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, and the fallout resulting in David Letterman setting up a direct competitor. 2011’s The War For Late Night focused on Jay Leno giving up the Tonight Show to Conan O’Brian but taking back the Tonight Show crown a year after retiring from it.
Bill Carter has been a media reporter for decades and covers the television beat for The New York Times. He spoke to Shaun D Wilson.