Late-Night Stars Of Yesteryear: Where Are They Now?

In the space of just two months, Jay Leno’s car show was cancelled and he sustained serious injuries in two separate accidents.

Leno’s one-time rival, David Letterman, cultivated a bushy beard soon after he retired from late-night TV in May 2015, and has not shaved since.

These are just some of what the late-night stars of the recent past have been up to since leaving the late-night scene.

Leno’s first accident was last fall on November 12. He sustained serious burns on his face and hands when a car he was working on suddenly burst into flames, according to Leno, who has talked about the incident in interviews.

He underwent reconstructive surgeries on part of his face. Last March he told Dana Carvey and David Spade on their podcast “Fly On The Wall” that he even got a “new ear.”



“This is a brand-new ear,” he said, according to the L.A. Times. “When you get burned in a fire, ears are like paper. It just goes up.” Referring to his other surgeries, Leno said, “This is a whole new face.”

Just two months later, he underwent reconstructive surgery again following an accident while riding one of his motorcycles. 

As he tells it, he was suddenly “clotheslined” by a cable he did not see that spanned an exit to a parking lot he was riding in. He was flung backwards off the bike and broke multiple bones, including his collarbone and two ribs. He also cracked both kneecaps.

His face was damaged too, leading to a new round of reconstructive surgery, according to the Times.

The accident took place on January 17. That same month, CNBC announced that Leno’s show, “Jay Leno’s Garage,” was ending its run after seven seasons. 

Leno, 73, is still seen nightly as host of the lighthearted, syndicated game show “You Bet Your Life,” with sidekick Kevin Eubanks, his bandleader on “The Tonight Show.”

That show tapes 180 episodes in a production schedule that lasts just 12 days. The episodes seen currently were presumably ready to go before his two accidents.

When the pre-beard Letterman left “Late Show,” he gave the impression that he would then fade away, MacArthur-like, from TV and public appearances. 

But this did not happen. He now has a series on Netflix in which he interviews notables ranging from world leaders to entertainment stars.

The show, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman,” premiered in 2018. Guests have ranged from Barack Obama to Tina Fey. 

Letterman, 76, does not otherwise appear on TV very often, although he has been an occasional guest on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” Today, wherever Letterman goes, his beard goes with him. 

Side note about Kimmel: As host of “Jimmy Kimmel Live” for 20 years, Kimmel, 55, is now the longest-running host in late-night television, and the time period’s elder statesman.

Today’s TV Blog was inspired by yesterday’s blog about Conan O’Brien and his upcoming travel series on HBO Max, “Conan O’Brien Must Go.”

Former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart, 60, now has a show on Apple TV+, “The Problem With Jon Stewart,” a current affairs-interview show.

Craig Ferguson, 61, had a great run as host of “Late Late Show” on CBS from 2005 to 2014. Almost immediately after leaving the show, he started a new job as host of a game show -- “Celebrity Name Game” -- that lasted until 2017.

The man who succeeded Ferguson on “Late Late Show” (formally renamed “The Late Late Show”) -- James Corden, 44 -- stepped down as host of the show in April. He said he and his family are moving back to their native England.

2 comments about "Late-Night Stars Of Yesteryear: Where Are They Now?".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, May 24, 2023 at 1:36 p.m.

    Sadly, the guy who really turned late night TV into what it became for many decades---Jack Paar----is no longer with us. When he replaced Steve Allen, who was the original host of NBC's "Tonight Show"---one of NBC prexy, Pat Weaver's, brainchilds in the early and mid- 1950s---the others were  "Today" and "The Home Show"----the show's ratings took off just  when the competing stations' "Late Show" movies were running out of gas due to over exposure.  Where Allen had drawn average minute ratings in the 3-4% range Parr doubled this performance by specializing in thought provoking, often agonized interviews with interesting guests.

    By thetime Paar finally burned out as NBC/s late night host and Carson took over, many viewers---especially those under age 50, living in large cities---- had built up a steady late night viewing habit which Johnny exploited brilliantly.But even though he lasted only four years on "Tonight" ---some of them very tortured ones---Paar is the guy who made late night TV what it was---until the last ten years or so. It's all in my book, "TV Now and Then", Media Dynamics Inc, 2015.

  2. David Scardino from TV & Film Content Development, May 24, 2023 at 4:04 p.m.

    Ed, when you wrote "agonized interviews" I immediately thought of Parr with Oscar Levant. Talk about "one of a kind...!" Of course so was Oscar.

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