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The Late Night Talk Show Host Beard-athon (Past/Present)
October 1, 2015  | By Ed Bark  | 4 comments

There’s a growth spurt among past and present late night talk show hosts -- and it has nothing to do with how many there are to choose from.

Simply put, beards are busting out all over, led by the above rather shocking and now widely seen picture of a retired David Letterman taking his full-blown facial hair for a walk.

Jon Stewart, who recently left Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, has gone the same route. It’s often what happens when one no longer has to keep up appearances, is licking some wounds or is between shows.

Conan O’Brien grew a beard while recuperating from his Tonight Show crash. He also wore it for quite a while on his follow-up TBS show.

Stephen Colbert (right) came forth with a notably white facial attachment while biding time between The Colbert Report and his new CBS show. Even Jimmy Fallon (below) went with a beard for a while after returning to his former NBC Late Night show following an extended break.

But beards aren’t just for show, tell and shaving any more. Jimmy Kimmel (with Colbert, right) lately is wearing whiskers on the air, as is CBS’ new Late Late Show host, James Corden (with Fallon, below.)

Late night talk show hosts of yore, such as Jack Paar, Joey Bishop, Dick Cavett, Merv Griffin and Johnny Carson, went barefaced under all circumstances (save for the time Johnny returned from a 1985 vacation with a jarring short beard that he ditched after a week). But among the latter day alumni, only Jay Leno has never worn whiskers in public. Consider, though, that this is the ultimate creature of habit, a guy whose very basic off-camera uniform is still a blue denim shirt and jeans.

Letterman dared to sport a silver beard on Late Show upon returning in 2008 after a writers’ strike. But he quickly had it shaved -- on the air for maximum effect. Generally speaking, late night talkers are reluctant to show even a few specks of gray in their facial accompaniments. After all, that might make them seem older than their shows’ advertiser-prized 18-to-49-year-old target audience. It’s quite possible that at age 47, Kimmel might be resorting to a little dye to keep up appearances. But for now, he looks very sporty in a beard.

There’s a minority report amid all these bushy looks. Trevor Noah and Larry Wilmore, the men of color who replaced Stewart and Colbert, so far have remained resolutely smooth-faced both off-camera and on-. Not that this is necessarily a permanent state of affairs when it comes to non-white hosts. Arsenio Hall went with a mustache during his first successful go-around as a late night talker. And former TBS late-nighter George Lopez has broken out some facial hair since that show was canceled in 2011.

We’ll leave you with those images while wondering if any of this means anything at all. For now, though, you’re something of a late night outsider if you don’t get hairy. Letterman clearly has taken it to the next level in his dotage. But he’s always been a tough act to follow anyway.

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I stopped shaving as soon as I read this fun piece. Once I get really hirsute, I'm gonna post a pic online and see if anybody offers me a talk show.
Oct 7, 2015   |  Reply
Ed Crimmins
I STILL miss Dave.
Oct 6, 2015   |  Reply
A companion definition is "foolish affection." And if you'd actually like to see those closing images of Arsenio Hall and George Lopez, see original post on unclebarky.com.
Oct 3, 2015   |  Reply
Arsenio didn't look all that bad with the facial hair. (Lopez, not so much. And Colbert in his photo looks like 1950's era kids TV show host, like Officer Joe or the Merry Mailman. Pirate Pappy?)

I'm not a fan of any TV host sporting a beard. But Letterman's in a different place. He's no longer on TV, but he's got an instantly recognizable face, so I don't blame him for not wanting to attract attention on Manhattan streets. But that doesn't qualify him for senility or foolish affectation. (It does qualify him to see a barber and get the damn thing under some control, so he doesn't attract his unwanted attention for being a deranged street person.)
Oct 3, 2015
>>Letterman clearly has taken it to the next level in his dotage.<<

"dotage?" My Webster's defines "dotage" as "a state or period of senile decay marked by decline of mental poise and alertness."

Does that term really apply to Dave this soon after he gave up the Late Show? It's only been 4 months. Is there evidence that Dave is in senile decay already? Has he been spotted around Manhattan or New Canaan drooling in his soup?
Oct 2, 2015   |  Reply
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