When you list all of the best and most classic bits of late-night TV, which ones do you usually love? While many of them are derivative and give immediate throwbacks to the days of Johnny Carson, it seems cooking segments have become more of a product of the more recent late-night TV trend. Carson did some cooking segments, though not nearly as many as ones done today. And you could say David Letterman set the tone for all of the wild cooking segments done in recent late-night circles. But which late-night host is the true master of the cooking segment now?
Did David Letterman Really Set the Tone for the Cooking Segment?
Once you think of a cooking segment on a late-night show, your immediate thought probably goes to the bottle of cooking brandy or whiskey sitting on the table. Then you likely wonder if the host is going to take a swig out of the bottle in the middle of making an elaborate dish with a celebrity chef. Yes, David Letterman started this trend, and nobody has ever known whether he’s truly drinking alcohol or if the bottle was prepped with water or something else non-alcoholic.
Based on other hosts doing the same swig and showing strong reaction, it’s more than possible Letterman’s was legit. Nevertheless, he was the only late-night host to never react after drinking nearly half a bottle.
While Johnny Carson did a few funny cooking segments during his late-night reign, Letterman has truly set the bar for all that’s followed. This goes beyond the brandy swigs and more into making the actual dishes. He mastered the art of creating mass chaos at the cooking table to a point where the dough was usually literally flying in the air.
Then there’s all the dirty double entendres that actually seemed to have more use with a different host.
Did Jay Leno Perfect the Cooking Segment Dirty References?
It seems that every late-night cooking segment can’t have the use of sausages or the stuffing of a bird to bring the usual dirty references that never fail to get a laugh. Jay Leno seems to have set this bar more than Letterman who stuck strictly with creating chaos. If you played all of the Leno cooking segments together, you’d probably find more of them with use of sausage or wieners more than anything. Sure, if you didn’t think that wasn’t planned in advance, then you probably think those dirty one-liners were instantaneous brilliance.
Conan O’Brien Brought the Letterman Chaos to Cooking Segments
While you don’t see Conan O’Brien do as many cooking segments now than when he hosted NBC’s “Late Night”, he was one of the funniest at this up until Jimmy Fallon took O’Brien’s spotlight. Almost every cooking table looked like a shambles when Conan and his celebrity chefs were involved. He also brought the idea of bringing the other celebrity guest over to help with the segment or to taste the food. When done at a quick pace, it was comedic chaos personified that surprisingly didn’t lead to any complete studio food fights.
Is Jimmy Fallon the Current Kind of Cooking Segments?
It seems Jimmy Fallon has a cooking segment almost once a week now that he’s host of “The Tonight Show.” He’s already bringing the dirty double entendres Leno brought, plus the same use of (arguably tired) sexualized jokes with every piece of food imaginable. Most of all, he brings a quick pace, which follows the Conan lead of something always going wrong. In most cases, that involves pouring too much of something into the dishpan or generally knocking something over because the segment is so rushed.
All of these classic elements continue to work, and Fallon seems to be the only one who will probably carry it on. However, Seth Myers has finally done his first cooking segment on his show, and he brought nearly the same comedic sentiment.
Oddly, Craig Ferguson and Jimmy Kimmel seem to stay away from cooking segments in favor of their comedy segments and improv. Even if cooking segments might be somewhat planned in what’s said, there’s still an element of the unexpected that some comedians may feel could fall flat without having their standby bits around as a parachute in rescuing things.