A little background on me in regards to late-night talk shows: I wrote for the pilot for The Pete Holmes Show, previously wrote for @midnight with Chris Hardwick, and attended tapings of Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Conan.
Besides all that, I'm the audience CBS wants. I'm the millennial it — and everyone else — seems so desperate to ensnare.
The odds are I don't have the same relationship with late-night television that you do. If you've ever stayed up too late to watch Johnny Carson without your parents knowing, or sneakily recorded a David Letterman bit on your VCR, or always ended your workday next to your partner in bed while watching Jay Leno ask, "If you've seen" this or "If you've heard about" that, I can't pretend to have the same relationship with late night as you. I can't and I won't.
As someone born after 1990, I've always had the luxury of accessibility: TIVO-ing programs and watching them at 3 in the afternoon the next day, creating my own custom late-night lineups. I can shotgun a week's worth of Conan on Saturday when I'm tired, and want to catch up on the shows I missed. I can then go online, and pick and choose the pieces of content that I want to see. I can watch clips from late-night shows in 1957, or from last night's The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
It's easy to write off this behavior in me and my peers as ADD, but the truth is we have taste, we are picky and we don't have to put up with anything if we don't want to.
It seems the way executives have chosen to address the problem of my generation is to try and "youth-anize" (not proud of that) their programs, as if we watch a video of a goat screaming because it's on YouTube — rather than the fact that it's just solid comedy. I won't lie: Some of the old late-night formats bore me; I don't have the luxury of nostalgia to help me think fondly of them. There's a reason why "Take my wife, please" (and its Kazakistan equivalent "My wiiiife") were only funny the first 100 times or so: Comedy gets stale.
But newer, flashier gimmicks can feel equally off-putting; they're jarring and uncomfortable. It seems every program wants to be "DIFFERENT" and "SHAKE THINGS UP," but the truth is that adding a segment on GIFs isn't going to cut it. All we want is something new, and we want something good. That's why I'm imploring CBS: Please, please, don't make the new Late Show host a white dude.
Don't get me wrong: Gender or race aren't going to make me tune in every week because of novelty. But the chance to hear a different set of opinions, tastes and a worldview I'm not bombarded with every single day is exciting! It makes me want to tune in! And there are millions of people who don't identify with white-male hosts anymore, and — crazily enough — they also have the internet. CBS would be shooting itself in the foot if it pretended they're not there.
If late-night television is supposed to set the tone for our nation's conversation, then all we're getting right now is a lot of white noise. And it'd be nice to change the dial.Wyatt Cenac
Cenac has already proved himself a capable correspondent on The Daily Show, producing some of my favorite segments for the program. But before that, he was an accomplished sketch performer and writer, as well as a standup comedian (his special "Comedy Person" aired in May 2011 on Comedy Central). Cenac also has a calmness and self-assuredness about him that could anchor a show.Hari Kondabolu
I really enjoy Kondabolu's standup — he just released his album Waiting for 2042 — but what's notable is how strong and sharp his voice is already. With stories like the time a woman cut in front of him at the airport because she thought his father was a cabbie (despite not driving, you know, a cab) Kondabolu would provide a breath of fresh air to the late-night scene.Cameron Esposito
A Chicago native, Esposito is a killer standup comic with biting wit, but also treats everyone she encounters with respect and candor. Coming off a tour with Anthony Jeselnik, she recently appeared on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson where the other guest was none other than Jay Leno.Keegan-Michael Key
Half of the duo on Comedy Central show Key and Peele, Key and partner Jordan Peele set, and then raised a whole new bar for television sketch comedy (U.S. President Barack Obama officially gave it the thumbs up when he appeared on the Tonight Show). In addition to being an amazing sketch writer and performer, Key is also just as comfortable on stage or in a one-on-one conversation. I've been lucky enough to talk with him a few times, and on each occasion, he went out of his way to make me feel comfortable and at ease — the best trait we can ask for in a host.
…Although, if I'm being honest, I'd happily watch Peele host every night, too. Whereas some late-night hosts can be boisterous, Peele always seems to be in control of any situation, in the most comforting way possible.Nicole Byer
On the more youthful side, Byer has the ability to hold her alongside comedy elders. Her web series Pursuit of Sexiness, which she created with Saturday Night Live cast member Sasheer Zamata, stands out among the pack. She's also a breakout star of MTV's Girl Code. Plus, as an Upright Citizens Brigade alum, she's more than comfortable performing live.
I love Jack Parr and Conan O'Brien and yes, I obviously love David Letterman. I love a solid format and a comforting presence to end my day with, and I think America does, too. So, CBS, I'm not asking that you reinvent late night — in fact, please don't. Just maybe get someone new behind the desk.
Shelby Fero is a Los Angeles-based writer and performer, whose work can be seen online or on your TV. You can follow her on Twitter at @Shelbyfero.
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