NEW YORK — Jay Leno is out at “The Tonight Show”; Jimmy Fallon is in. Now the question on everyone’s lips is who will be the new host of “Late Night”?
The candidates might include Seth Meyers, John Mulaney, Chelsea Handler, Andy Cohen and W. Kamau Bell.
“Weekend Update” anchor Meyers is already rumored to be a top contender for the job. Like Fallon, he’s spent nearly his entire career at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, where he’s been a “Saturday Night Live” cast member since 2001 and head writer since 2006. He’s also proved himself adept at the more celebrity-driven talk format, with well-received guest-hosting stints opposite Kelly Ripa on “Live!” Last summer he was even thought to be in the running for a permanent gig on the syndicated show. Of course, that job eventually went to Michael Strahan. Maybe Meyers was holding out for “Late Night”?
Another viable but less obvious option would be Mulaney, a former “SNL” writer and popular stand-up comedian. Although he’s familiar with the inner workings of Lorne Michaels’ empire, Mulaney’s nerdy, slightly off-kilter humor — he created the popular “SNL” character Stefon — could make for a nice contrast with Fallon’s more accessible comedy.
Still, the “Late Night” gig seems unlikely, given that Mulaney already has an NBC pilot, to costar Martin Short and Elliott Gould, in the works.
While Meyers certainly seems like the no-brainer choice to take over for Fallon, he would do little to diversify the overwhelmingly white, male ranks of late-night television. Handler’s contract at E! is up in 2014, she’s already part of the NBCUniversal family, and her bad-girl act would certainly bring a new perspective to the network airwaves (and keep the standards guys on their toes).
Or why not look further afield at the many cable talk shows that have launched on cable since the last round of the late-night wars in 2010? On FX, there’s “Totally Biased” host Bell, who offers both diversity and an edgy political point of view, if not exactly huge ratings. Russell Brand’s “Brand X” hasn’t gotten the kindest reviews, but he’s English, and that’s at least a little different, right? (Then again, it would probably make it too awkward for Fallon to reprise his excellent Brand impersonation.)
At Bravo, Cohen has turned “Watch What Happens Live” from a dirt-cheap promotional platform for the network’s reality stars into a freewheeling, entertaining show that occasionally attracts bona-fide A-listers. But it seems unlikely Bravo would let their brand ambassador go, or that Cohen’s sensibility would go over well with a more mainstream audience.
Though there’s almost no imaginable scenario in which Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert would abandon their Comedy Central shows for a later time slot with a smaller audience, the network has proved to be a breeding ground for talent who would be at home on “Late Night.” As “The Daily Show’s” “senior women’s issues correspondent,” Kristen Schaal is reliably hilarious. Or maybe after he’s done filling in for Stewart this summer, John Oliver will be ready for his own show.