7 episodes

More than 60 years ago, the creation of late night TV changed the face of television forever. From Johnny Carson, to David Letterman, to Arsenio Hall, the late night show format continues to endure, evolving to keep pace each new generation. In Behind the Desk: The Story of Late Night host Bill Carter takes us on a journey through late night television’s most memorable moments with first-hand, behind-the-scenes accounts from some of the most notable names in late night history. 

Behind the Desk: The Story of Late Night is a companion podcast to CNN’s Original Series, The Story of Late Night.

Behind the Desk: The Story of Late Night CNN

    • History
    • 4.1 • 157 Ratings

More than 60 years ago, the creation of late night TV changed the face of television forever. From Johnny Carson, to David Letterman, to Arsenio Hall, the late night show format continues to endure, evolving to keep pace each new generation. In Behind the Desk: The Story of Late Night host Bill Carter takes us on a journey through late night television’s most memorable moments with first-hand, behind-the-scenes accounts from some of the most notable names in late night history. 

Behind the Desk: The Story of Late Night is a companion podcast to CNN’s Original Series, The Story of Late Night.

    The Future

    The Future

    Late night TV sensibilities crash through the status quo and frame society to expose all that is fun, funny and non-sensical about it. As a diverse new group of hosts ascend, the late night landscape looks less and less like the old white boys club of the past. With the help of Amber Ruffin, Desus & Mero, Ziwe, Trevor Noah and more, Bill Carter analyzes late night’s bright, inclusive future as it shakes off a historical resistance to woman and the BIPOC community.

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    • 46 min
    The Politics

    The Politics

    Modern late night TV serves as a number one news source for audiences who devour humorous but critical insights of American society and politics. With commentary from Trevor Noah, Roy Wood Jr., Amber Ruffin, Sarah Cooper and others, Bill Carter maps out the journey that transformed much of late night from escapist entertainment to political satire.

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    • 39 min
    The Comics

    The Comics

    For as long as “late night” has been an institution, stand-ups, sitcom stars, and even future hosts have begun their careers as late night comics. With insights from Trevor Noah, Jimmy Kimmel, Ray Romano, Byron Allen, Carol Leifer, Jimmy Brogan, Brian Regan and Elayne Boosler, host Bill Carter explores how the genre has been a golden door for talent and how social media has created a new jumping off point that veers from tradition.

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    • 41 min
    The Writers

    The Writers

    Host Bill Carter pulls back the curtain for a peek inside the all-important writers’ room. In these four walls, the comedy elite put in long hours each week as they sift through hundreds of jokes, in search of the ones that will land the biggest laughs.Guests include Amber Ruffin, Jimmy Kimmel, Dick Cavett, Conan producer Robert Smigel and The Colbert Report's executive producer Alison Silverman.

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    • 39 min
    The Format

    The Format

    The monologue, the desk, the guests, the band. The ingredients of the late night TV formula are familiar, yet fickle. Get them just right and a show can last for decades. Make one mistake and your career is over – fast. In this episode, we explore the alchemy that turns a late night TV show into ratings and social media gold. Jimmy Kimmel, Desus & Mero, David Letterman producer and co-creator of The Daily Show co-creator Madeleine Smithberg, Tonight Show regular Byron Allen and more give us insights into the hardships of mastering the formula perfected by Johnny Carson.

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    • 47 min
    The Host

    The Host

    Bill Carter speaks with legendary hosts Jimmy Kimmel and Dick Cavett, the genre's newest star Amber Ruffin, Conan O’Brien’s sidekick Andy Richter and many more to dissect one of TV’s hardest, most challenging jobs - the late night TV host. These individuals aren’t just the stars of the show: they’re writers, directors, and crisis managers. While they are everything from charming to difficult, inspiring to insecure, and even downright eccentric, their genius shines bright when they consistently make it all look so easy - five nights a week, every week!

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    • 48 min

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5
157 Ratings

157 Ratings

Baravelli the Ice Man ,

Maybe it was just a dream

I could have sworn it was real.
For ten years I had this dream that at 12:35 I was treated to an hour of smart, silly flippancy which featured a host as wise as Stephen Fry but as childlike as Soupy Sales.
In this dream, this host would begin with puppet theater, delve into stream of consciousness disguised as a monologue, rip up his notes and actually talk with his guests.
His sidekick was a surreal alter ego, and his other companion a pantomime horse.
This dream lasted a decade and I never realized it was only that until I watched a six part series on the history of late night television.
Apparently The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson never really existed.
Well, at least I laughed in my dreams.
And if after watching the sixth installment of this series about late night entertainment a little kitty would ask me “what did I learn on the show tonight?” I guess I would have to answer that my dream late night show was just that.
Wait, while writing this I thought I saw a reference to Craig. But then I blinked and that image was gone. Darn that dream.

CTMoonshine ,

Fantastic Podcast For Late Night Fans

I hope this never stops…. I have been a fan of Late Nite since the mid 70’s. This is terrifically done, and I hope it continues!

Niban #2dj ,

Very cool...

and lots of fun. Perhaps more so for people ~of a certain age~ who grew up with this. Nevertheless, extremely insightful and very interesting.

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