Did you know that the Late Night Wars have gone online? I didn’t. I only found out yesterday.
Last weekend I went to see late night talk show host Craig Ferguson “in concert” at the Cobb Energy Center, a poor man’s Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. While it was great fun to see my Twitter-pal @CraigyFerg live and in person, I was surprised to find myself annoyed at his incessant cursing. I, mean, it’s not like I don’t use foul language in my regular every day life, I’m just as clay-footed as the next person – – but there really was some part of my intellect which stood up primly and declared (in a Craig Ferguson sort of way) “Cursing? Reeeeally??”
It was disappointing to watch this clearly clever man employ a comedic “mutually assured destruction” with the dreaded F-bomb.
I considered sending a tweet to @CraigyFerg to tell him that I thought he’d be just as funny if he could cut his cursing back by 35% but I knew better than to waste my time because he has such an enormous group of followers (which he calls his “skeleton robot army”) and he rarely replies directly to individual tweets.
As one of the first 1,300 people following Ferguson I enjoyed his tweets and watching his list of Followers increase exponentially. Then, a few weeks ago I noticed friends tweeting that Conan O’Brien had also started tweeting. And then, a few nights ago, I noticed the largely lovely actress Kirstie Alley on David Letterman’s show, and Letterman was hovering over a laptop, for all intents and purposes tweeting.
By this point I’d become curious to find out how many late night hosts were on Twitter and how their individual “skeleton robot armies” stacked up against each other. Within 5 minutes I’d determined that ALL the talk show hosts were using Twitter, and using the great comparison tool at TwitterCounter.com I was able to generate several head-to-head scenarios of each host’s numbers over the past week and them compile them into the graphic featured at the top of this article.
Such surprising results!
As you can see from the graph, Twitter debutante Conan O’Brien is decimating the old guard with a staggering 650,000 followers.
But it’s not just Coco who’s in the lead!
However, things aren’t all doom and gloom for the dinosaurs of the talk show trade!
In just the last week Letterman (with 30,000 followers) has climbed out of the Twitter basement, passing Jimmy Kimmel‘s 25,000 followers and closing in on arch nemesis, demon-lord Jay Leno’s 37,000 followers. Of course anyone who knows Leno’s history won’t be surprised when the steamshovel-jawed talk-meister engineers a situation in which his parent company purchases Twitter and cancels Letterman’s account.
Just when I was getting ready to publish these findings I remembered that I’d left someone out of my ciphering: that punk kid who took over Conan’s 12:30am spot. I actually had to ask Google to give me his name since I normally flip over to watch Ferguson at 12:30.
So that kid is Jimmy Fallon.
The Jimmy Fallon who has 2.5 MILLION followers…. see? ->>
These two graphs clearly delineate the future of American talk shows.
The guys who have the most followers on Twitter are most in touch with the social media addicted younger generation, the generation who will ultimately be candidates for the 11:30pm time slot (let’s ignore the entire DVR discussion here).
Sure, over the next few months Leno and Letterman will gain followers on Twitter and I fully expect them both to overtake “youngsters” Ferguson and Lopez, but at the end of the day it’s obvious that they and their producers missed the boat with social media. To be fair, a lot people didn’t get the Twitter thing and will gleefully continue to not “get it”. Frankly, it isn’t incumbent of the old guard to latch onto new technology because they’ll inevitably come off looking like Pat Boone trying to do a Beatles song. These guys know what their audiences like and they needn’t change the recipe too much; Letterman will continue to attract people who don’t realize that he’s been phoning it in for the last 10 years and Leno will continue to attract retirees, beloved toothless quarterbacks and seriously bad writers. I’m not sure what will happen to Jimmy Kimmel, but I’m pretty sure that he’s safe.
Because he’s YOUNG.
In 15 years we’ll be watching Fallon, O’Brien and Kimmel, because they represent the future…. and as much stink as we’ve raised about the shabby way that NBC treated Conan O’Brien, they’d be far dumber than we already think they are if they don’t realize that they’re sitting on top of a Secret Weapon with Jimmy Fallon.
But don’t worry Craig.
I’ll watch you as long as you want to do your show but you’re never going to win, even with the F-bomb.
(tweet at me @drewprops!)