Magazine article Variety

Latenight Gamble: LION'S DEN or COMFORT ZONE

Magazine article Variety

Latenight Gamble: LION'S DEN or COMFORT ZONE

Article excerpt

Reps rate talkers in considering right fit for clients

Abevy of publicists were wiling to provide - if not for attribution - their thoughts on the nightly battle to plop clients happily on the chair across from the hosts of latenight talkers.

"It's very important to pick the host who is going to help make the best magical moment," says one publicist, who, like her peers who were interviewed for this report, spoke strictly on condition of anonymity - for obvious reasons.

Across the board, all agreed that good storytelling is the key.

"They don't want to hear about how your limo was late or your private plane broke down," remarks one. "But your kid pooped on you? Your dog did something funny? They love anything that makes the guest seem accessible and appealing."

Much depends on the depth of the pre-interview, and in that regard there's a clear favorite: "Especially as it pertains to releasing a movie or an Academy campaign, Jay Leno remains the gold standard." Unique to NBC's The Tonight Show With Jay Leno"Xhe same people producing the segment are also booking it, so they're going to look for someone who's good TV."

The host remains good TV, too. "Jay's just a nice guy. You feel safe with him." "He wants the talent to be comfortable." "He just creates a terrific environment. He's very pleasant backstage, and he always watches what he's talking about, so he's really up to speed."

CBS' Late Show host David Letterman is seen as the cagey yin to Leno's exuberant yang. The comedian/provocateur seems to take pride at times in not prepping for his guests.

"I love Dave, but he's the most unpredictable. You never know what you're going to get with him." "If your client says to the Letterman people, 'I don't want to talk about X,' Dave's gonna talk about it. ... He just goes for the jugular." Still, "he's not going to hurt a friend; he's not going to go after Tom Hanks in a way that'll make him uncomfortable."

The Jimmys are popular with flacks because "they're both naturally funny guys" - Fallon (NBC's Late Night) from his sketch comedy background on Saturday Night Live and Kimmel (ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live) from his radiohoned sharpness. "Fallon's a good hit." "With Fallon you feel like he's already a friend; you can be playful with him." "I'm sure it's going to be lots of fun for young celebs, especially, to connect with him."

"KimmeTs having a little more fun, I think," says another. "Going back to the 'I'm fucking Matt Damon' thing, Kimmel has paved the way for stars to do stuff outside their comfort zone and think it's cool." (Which carries an additional big benefit: "Then they don't have to talk about themselves.")

Cable perils are illustrated by TBS' Conan O'Brien, who "went from 0 to 60 back to 30," says one rep. "When you make your campaign plans, Conan is the last piece of the puzzle, because his ratings are just not competitive with the network shows." "Obviously he has a following, but do you ever hear What happened on Conan last night'? ... Jimmy Fallon is a thousand times more relevant than Conan."

Cable's cool crown is currently claimed by Comedy Central's The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, whose host is "so smart and clever he can roll with almost anything." This could be "the hardest booking to get," and is "special because they don't take everybody." Moreover, "you're only on for six minutes, the interview segment is real short."

Matching guests to cable stars is a delicate art. …

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