Interviews with Chemistry
June 26, 2008 1:42 PM   Subscribe

Who are some great talk show guests I should look out for? I love watching Julia Roberts when she appears on Letterman. Likewise for Allison Janney or Lauren Graham on Ellen. Are there other great guest/host chemistry combinations I should make sure to catch with my DVR?

I'd prefer suggestions for people who will be appearing on current U.S. talk shows, but if you have suggestions for people who were great on Carson or a U.K. show, that would be great, too. I wouldn't mind youtube links to past interviews.
posted by shesbookish to Society & Culture (40 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know if she's done the show lately, but I always like Amy Sedaris on Letterman. I get the impression that she was a go-to if a scheduled guest canceled and they needed a last minute replacement.
posted by amro at 1:47 PM on June 26, 2008

Here's the thing: The guest is only as good as the host. Almost every celebrity is a good guest when he or she appears on Howard Stern's show (on Sirius radio in the mornings) .

He is by far and away the greatest celebrity interviewer I've ever seen (or heard). He gets the real goods out of these people- which makes him a publicist's nightmare.

All of these other talk show hosts pre-interview their guests and then the publicist ok's the questions. That's why Letterman and Leno, etc.. are always so bland and predictable and safe.

They don't pre-interview on Howard Stern. The guest goes on cold.

I would go to his website and find out who's appearing and see if they have any archives.

(I think Julia Roberts did his show, by the way)
posted by Zambrano at 1:55 PM on June 26, 2008

Yes. Amy Sedaris on Letterman is a must watch.
posted by HotPatatta at 1:55 PM on June 26, 2008

Leno turns even the guests with great potential into snoozes. Rosie Perez is always funny and quirky, esp. with Conan.

And I agree with Zambrano re Howard Stern.
posted by HotPatatta at 1:58 PM on June 26, 2008

Any comic that was at least semi popular in the mid to late nineties guesting on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Every time I see Denis Leary or Adam Sandler on there, it's like seeing old friends catch up with each other.
posted by dearest at 1:59 PM on June 26, 2008

Charles Barkley. I'd watch him anywhere and I don't even like sports.
posted by HeyAllie at 2:01 PM on June 26, 2008

For any guest that you might consider watching, check if they've been interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air. Though it's a radio program, she gives great interviews.
posted by jaimev at 2:06 PM on June 26, 2008

Regis Philbin is my favorite frequent Letterman guest.
posted by marsha56 at 2:16 PM on June 26, 2008

Hugh Laurie on almost any talk show but particularly on The Late Late Show (Craig Ferguson) and Ellen.

Craig Ferguson has a habit of making people either really comfortable or entertainingly uncomfortable that I find appealing. He's particularly good with people that have their wits about them, though.

Bonnie Hunt is also usually good on Letterman or any other show (also used to be a go-to guest for Letterman.) If any of the old Tom Snyder late show clips are up on youtube - look for the ones with Bonnie Hunt.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 2:18 PM on June 26, 2008

David Sedaris on any show. His most recent Daily Show appearance was great. You can probably find some footage on You Tube.

I heard from a coworker that Will Smith is especially funny on Letterman.

Conan with anyone, especially non-comedians.
posted by LiveToEat at 2:28 PM on June 26, 2008

Though I'm not a fan of their work, both George Takei and John Tesh are infallibly awesome on Conan.
posted by rmless at 2:33 PM on June 26, 2008

Another vote for Amy Sedaris on Letterman.
posted by kimdog at 2:39 PM on June 26, 2008

Letterman and Charles Grodin. (I have no idea if he still appears on Letterman - but the ones I saw years ago were a trip, and are probably on Youtube.)
posted by coffeefilter at 2:41 PM on June 26, 2008

Letterman's best guests are a lot of the old comedy actors like Steve Martin, Bill Murray, Billy Crystal, Martin Short, and even Don Rickles. Tom Hanks and Bruce Willis too. Roberts and Sedaris are probably his best female guests. They all have a great rapport with Dave and while they'll often have some sort of planned routine to an extent, the interviews seem natural and spontaneous, and are a big contrast to his more typical guests. I suppose you could add Robin Williams, but personally, I can't stand him.

Two of my favorite guests though are Regis, and Charles Grodin. Regis and Dave have great chemistry and they constantly go back and forth with each other. Grodin puts on the stoic grumpy old guy persona, and as long as you know it's an act, his interviews can be very entertaining.

And while Paris Hilton is up there with Williams on my "un-favorite" list, Dave's inability to not pass up jokes at her expense is always good for a few laughs. Another unlikely great guest is Dr Phil, who's quite good at playing along with Dave.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 2:42 PM on June 26, 2008

Oh yeah, Bonnie Hunt, too. She doesn't appear too often anymore, but she's really sharp and has a longtime friendship with Dave, which shows. I'd take her over Roberts (whose Dave appearances can be a bit schmaltzy) and Sedaris (who can be a bit schticky).

As a Dave fan, I find the lack of Leno responses here (so far) somewhat reassuring...
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 2:51 PM on June 26, 2008

Let me just support Amy Sedaris on Letterman. I remember, and just watched via YouTube, her bit from earlier this year about Pockets her imaginary monkey (whose imaginary teeth, unfortunately, she had to remove).
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 2:53 PM on June 26, 2008

Norm MacDonald on Letterman after having just been fired from SNL.

Norm MacDonald on Regis and Conan.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 3:01 PM on June 26, 2008

Bjork on Space Ghost. Also, Mike Judge and Metallica on the same show.
posted by ignignokt at 3:41 PM on June 26, 2008

A recent one that comes to mind was Kristen Bell on Craig Fergusion.

Not so much on the "current" part, but there was a classic one with Richard Harris on Letterman where he told a story about a Dublin judge telling him to fly over in a helicopter instead of driving (drunk). Letterman seemed to consider it pretty much a perfect interview (couldn't find it on YouTube).
posted by dixie flatline at 4:04 PM on June 26, 2008

Norm MacDonald on any of them... like an Altoid for my whole head.
posted by Cosine at 4:14 PM on June 26, 2008

and no one on Leno.... ever.
posted by Cosine at 4:16 PM on June 26, 2008

Tom Arnold on Letterman. Also, thirding Grodin/Letterman.
posted by equalpants at 4:26 PM on June 26, 2008

I'd suggest trying to find some British 'panel shows.' They're like talk shows with a host, and four to six comedians/celebrities, all playing off each other. Two favourites are Never Mind the Buzzcocks (I prefer the recent Simon Amstell episodes to the Mark Lamarr episodes; favourite episodes with Amstell include the episodes with Noel Fielding, or the rampant madness of John Barrowman, Amy Winehouse [post-'Rehab'], Bill Oddie), or QI (always featuring four comedians, so it's always pretty good, especially the episodes with Phill Jupitus, or, surprisingly, Jimmy Carr, who I normally kinda hate). You can find these series online, pretty easily; if not, MeMail me. In all of those series, the subject matter is but a pretext for interaction.

That being said:
To continue with dixie flatline's suggestion, the Kristen Bell/Wolfgang Puck cooking segment from the same show was pretty good. The only bit I can find on youtube is after most of Craig's freakout about crabs, which is a bit of a pity.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 4:30 PM on June 26, 2008

I'd nth Bonnie Hunt as well, especially on Letterman, but I enjoyed her interviews with Tom Snyder the most. They had a lot of fun talking to each other.
posted by dr. fresh at 4:32 PM on June 26, 2008

I'd forgotten about John Tesh on Conan. That pairing is a great example of the chemistry I'm looking for. Thanks for all the suggestions so far. Please add more if any come to mind.
posted by shesbookish at 4:50 PM on June 26, 2008

Drew Barrymore on Letterman. So flirtatious, and he blushes.
posted by Riverine at 5:00 PM on June 26, 2008

2nding Craig Ferguson + (almost) anyone
posted by rux at 5:00 PM on June 26, 2008

I'm a bit partial to Jonathan Ross. I liked his Robert Downey Jr. interview, but that could also be because Robert Downey Jr. kicks major butt.
posted by theiconoclast31 at 6:13 PM on June 26, 2008

(I think Julia Roberts did his show, by the way)

I agree that Howard Stern is an amazing interviewer, but his interview with Julia Roberts sucked. I don't think he let her finish a single sentence; he interrupted her over and over again.
posted by amro at 6:32 PM on June 26, 2008

I was gonna say John Tesh on Conan as well. I was there for a live taping of this pair once and they were hilarious. But Conan can make just about anyone interesting, even the uninteresting. That's his gift, truly.
posted by FlyByDay at 8:16 PM on June 26, 2008

3rding Charles Grodin on Letterman.
posted by neuron at 8:42 PM on June 26, 2008

Harrison Ford is good on Letterman also. He gets nervous in interviews, and is usually drunk off his ass to compensate. Pretty funny.
posted by Quonab at 8:49 PM on June 26, 2008

Martha Stewart on Conan is always fun.

I like watching Scottish guests on Ferguson - particularly Ewan McGregor or James McAvoy.
posted by jabberjaw at 8:49 PM on June 26, 2008

Lauren Graham is also excellent on Conan. Actually, Lauren Graham is just excellent period! But, she does seem to get on well with Conan. I'm probably going to be repeating people.. I'm not going to read through to see if my recommendations have already been mentioned, but my Must Watch list include:
1. Amy Sedaris (specifically on David Letterman) She appears to have a massive crush on Letterman, and it's very cute. But, once again, Amy Sedaris is essential viewing anywhere. And, it's true, she's one of the few guests who come by who is rarely promoting anything. He just has her on because she's a nutty nut. And, really, not too many months of new programming go by without a visit.
2. Jeff Goldblum on Conan O'Brien. When I see them together.. the excitement I feel is probably not normal. The sexual tension on screen is inebriating.
3. James Spader on Conan O'Brien. They seem to play off each other very well, though James Spader has never attempted to lick Conan's face...yet (see: Jeff Goldblum).

And, seriously, my dream show is the three of them together, all on Conan's show.
posted by Mael Oui at 9:09 PM on June 26, 2008

Dammit, I forgot Tina Fey... on Conan O'Brien. And Will Arnett from Arrested Development... on Conan!

I agree with jabberjaw.. Craig Ferguson is good for getting British people on who aren't usually interviewed in this country. And he has a good rapport with a lot of those people. I think he had a lot of fun joking around with Ewan McGregor, and it was a nice change from him talking about cars and motorbikes with Jay Leno. Ferguson also had Stephen Fry on, and that was very good.

This doesn't really have much to do with your question per se, but one thing I like is when a host who isn't often serious (like Conan) has someone s/he really admires on and his or her starstruck sincerity is really evident. For instance, when Conan has Bob Newhart on. It's extremely touching. Especially when the person they're interviewing means a lot to you, too.
posted by Mael Oui at 9:16 PM on June 26, 2008

That Professor of Bread that was on Letterman (or was it Conan) was the greatest talk show interview I've ever seen.
posted by dobbs at 9:27 PM on June 26, 2008

The Professor of Bread on Conan.
posted by dobbs at 9:33 PM on June 26, 2008

Drew Barrymore on Letterman. So flirtatious, and he blushes.

There's flirtatious, and then there's this *.

* one of my favorite Letterman-gets-flustered moments
posted by zippy at 5:04 AM on June 27, 2008

Cher on Letterman. Especially this one (Youtube, audio somewhat NSFW when Cher drops the bomb at 3:30). It's completely awkward but honest.
posted by zippy at 5:12 AM on June 27, 2008

I love Jack Hanna on Letterman. Always funny.
posted by SoulOnIce at 8:05 AM on June 27, 2008

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