Is the Late Night Network Talk Show Game Ready for a Female Host?

By  · Published on April 4th, 2014

CBS Television

The late night chat show game has been the victim of some major shakeups and upheavals over the past few years – it’s lucky for Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon that his transition seemed to go so smoothly, because the previous attempt at ceding the show from Jay Leno to Conan O’Brien was eighteen shades of infamous ugly – but leave it to David Letterman to show everyone how classy retirement can (and should) be. Last night, Dave (always “Dave,” never “Letterman”) took to his Late Show to announce that he’s decided to retire sometime in the next year, meaning that the Late Show With David Letterman will end its run (as we know it) sometime in 2015.

Letterman’s retirement closes out the end of an era – both his own and the one that saw Leno and Letterman as the only real late night choices – and subsequently signals the beginning of a new one. Who will next host the Late Show? Although Letterman has given no indication of what will happen to the actual brand, it seem impossible that CBS would go without a late night entry, so surely someone will move into the spot soon enough. There are plenty of male hosts and comedians that could take over the gig – names that have been bandied about include Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Craig Ferguson, Conan O’Brien and even Jay Leno – but isn’t it time a woman took her place behind the desk?

Although the late night game has traditionally been the playground of be-tied white dudes, there have been exceptions to the rule – think Arsenio Hall (who is back on late night! Apparently!) and Joan Rivers (who hosted a Fox show back in 1986, one of the roots of her long-running feud with Johnny Carson, as she used to be a frequent guest and guest host on his Tonight Show) – and now seems to be the exactly right time for a lady to step in to permanently host a network late night show.

But who could possibly wrangle the desk? Turns out, plenty of ladies.

Chelsea Handler

The timing on this Letterman thing could not possibly be more fortuitous for Chelsea Handler, host of her own late night show, Chelsea Lately. Handler and her team have only recently announced that Handler will not be renewing her contract with E! when it’s up later this year. Sure, Handler is loud and raunchy and she makes no bones about who she does and does not like (she’s reportedly good friends with Jennifer Aniston and her own crew, which includes fellow late night host Jimmy Kimmel), but she also has a following and she does something very unique and utterly her own. If CBS really wants to shake things up after Dave leaves, Handler is the obvious choice.

Whoopi Goldberg

Goldberg is an established, well-known and admired comedienne who has also pulled off some major hosting gigs – Oscars, anyone? – who also has a background in talk shows (The View) and her own late night show (The Whoopi Goldberg Show, which had a short run in the nineties). Goldberg can (and has!) do it all.

Kathy Griffin

Like Goldberg, funny lady Griffin has mixed up her comedy career with talk show stints, award show hosting gigs and film work. Griffin is one hell of a hard worker, and would likely not be turned off by the long hours that go into putting this kind of show together.

Michelle Obama

We can dream, okay?

Tina Fey and/or Amy Poehler

The Saturday Night Live alums have already proved that they know how to host giant events, thanks to two very stellar turns as emcess of the Golden Globes, but they also have something else under their belts – “Weekend Update” hosting. Fey manned the news desk with Fallon from 2000 to 2004, Poehler worked alongside Seth Meyers from 2006 to 2008, and look how it turned out for both of those dudes. Yup, they’re both late night hosts. Fey and Poehler, of course, worked the gig together from 2004 to 2006, the only female duo to do so. They know how to entertain, to host, to tell jokes, and to make people feel comfy. Fey and Poehler may both be busy with big screen work – and Poehler is still starring on NBC’s Parks and Recreation – but how about some tagteam hosting? One week with Fey, one with Poehler, one with both of them? (Yes, this is our top pick.)

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Who would you like to see host CBS’s next take on the Late Show?