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October 7, 2015

Late night no longer a threat to politics - VIDEO

by Danny Gallagher, posted Dec 29th 2008 2:03PM
Remember the good old days, when becoming a joke in Johnny Carson's monologue was considered a bad thing for politicians? Some wily, horny old goat on the Senate Subcommittee for Restocking the Senate Office Supply Cabinet would get caught with a hooker nest in the middle of an underground speakeasy. And before you could say "Heavens to Teddy," he would be the punchline of some joke that involved a gallon of bathtub gin, a forklift full of Chinese geishas, and at least two camels.

Those days are deader than disco. 2008 marked an historic turning point in American politics, since politicians quadrupled the number of appearances they made on late night comedy shows.

Oh, and America elected their first African-American president, too.

George Mason University's Center for Media and Public Affairs measured the number of appearances each of the presidential candidates made during their campaigns. They made 110 stops on the late night comedy shows in 2008, while the major candidates appeared only 25 times on these shows in 2004. Almost half of the 110 appeared on those shows during the primaries.

The reason is simple. It's easier to get your message out when people are actually watching the show. The late night shows were their new eyeball ANWR, an untapped resource of ratings and potential voters to pitch to before their attention spans wane off to something shiny.

Compare that to the evening news shows, which have older and older viewers, some of whom have a hard enough time staying awake through the whole show. Case in point: the CBS Evening News placed third in their time slot, and the network is celebrating that achievement as if the Publishers' Clearinghouse's Prize Patrol showed up on their doorstep with a giant oversized check.

Of course, it can backfire. John McCain's infamous last-minute cancellation on David Letterman's show caused quite a ruckus, since it dragged him into the political spotlight and gave Dave plenty of material to tear him a new one. The two eventually made up, but it became one of the biggest political boners since Al Gore tried to distance himself from Bill Clinton and run on his own charm and personality.

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I am living overseas and 'John McCain's infamous last-minute cancellation on David Letterman's show' was pretty much the only late night TV item that made a blip on my radar. Americans might not be aware that more and more online video content is becoming 'unavailable in my region' I only get to see the TV stuff that really goes viral.

December 29 2008 at 4:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Martin's comment

Yeah, I'm starting to get sick of seeing large portions of articles on this site being devoted to Flash movies that say "unavailable in your area". It's especially annoying on Daily Show articles, where the videos *are* available, but TVS has chosen to use Hulu instead of Comedy Central's own embed code.

It's nearly 2009, ffs...

December 29 2008 at 7:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Late night is not a threat, it's a lifeline. Stephen Colbert has been extolling the Colbert Bump for over a year.

December 29 2008 at 3:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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