The Most and Least Liked Late Night Talk Show Hosts: From Stephen Colbert to Arsenio Hall

The Most and Least Liked Late Night Talk Show Hosts: From Stephen Colbert to Arsenio Hall

Comedy Central's “Daily Show” has produced some of the most likable names in late night

Stephen Colbert is the only host in late night TV who plays a character. On “The Colbert Report,” he's a self-absorbed, closed-minded caricature of a jingoistic talk show host, who is supposed to be anything but endearing.

But Americans embrace him anyway. Colbert is the most-liked late night talk show host, according to data that the Q Scores company provided to TheWrap.  The leader of Colbert Nation and host of Comedy Central's “Colbert Report” has the highest Positive Q Score in late night: a 20.

Also read: The Most and Least Liked Morning TV Hosts — From Robin Roberts to Kathie Lee Gifford

Perhaps the old adage, “Just be yourself,” is not valid after 11 p.m.

To create Q Scores, executive vice president Henry Schafer and his team provides a celebrity's name and a brief description to more than 1,800 viewers. The viewers are asked if they recognize the person, and how they feel about him or her. The average Positive Q Score for a celebrity is 15.

See photos: 14 Late Night TV Hosts Ranked by Popularity

The company's numbers for late night include adults surveyed from mid-January to early February 2014, prior to Jimmy Fallon taking on “The Tonight Show” and Seth Meyers taking over “Late Night.”

No. 2 in popularity is Colbert's fellow “Daily Show” alum, John Oliver. He has a strong 18 Positive Q Score, which he will take to his new weekly HBO series, “Last Week Tonight.” Oliver's acclaimed summer guest-hosting stint on “The Daily Show” must have been fresh in viewers’ minds.

Colbert's and Oliver's mentor, Jon Stewart, comes in third in popularity with a 16 Q Score, the same as new “Late Night” host Seth Meyers. But Stewart has higher recognition. Meyers was best known at the time of the survey for his more than 12 years on “Saturday Night Live.”

Also read: The Most and Least Liked Daytime TV Hosts – From Ellen to Wendy Williams

After Meyers, Jay Leno had a Positive Q Score of 15. Leno's was the most-famous name on the list, with 81 percent recognition.

Next up was Andy Cohen of “Watch What Happens Live.” Cohen is not highly recognizable, but he is fairly well received with a 14 Positive Q Score. Fallon, who was transitioning from the 12:35 a.m. timeslot to 11:35 p.m. at the time of this survey, has a 13 Q Score.

See photos: 16 ‘GMA,’ ‘Today,’ and ‘CBS This Morning’ Personalities Ranked by Popularity

But Fallon is scoring well in “Tonight” ratings, so don't be surprised if his score goes up.

At the bottom of our rankings is Arsenio Hall, who has an 8. Carson Daly has a 9. Daly was also covered in our Morning Show Personalities Q Score rankings.

Leno's old rival, David Letterman, scored a 9.

See photos: 26 Daytime Talk Show Personalities Ranked by Popularity

Here are the rankings from all adults surveyed, in order of Positive Q Score:


New, successful competition in the late night TV landscape is forcing networks and cable channels to adapt a more hip tone in an effort to reach a growing younger demographic. Jimmy Fallon‘s “Late Night” and “Tonight Show” viral video run, as well as Kimmel's online presence has set the table for the new age of post-11 p.m. television.

On our second chart, Conan O'Brien makes a nice run towards the top, but cannot unseat Colbert. Likewise, Hall stays in the basement, despite picking up an additional point.

Here is how the youthful, often early-adopting and trend-setting 18-34 demographic ranked the late night hosts, in order of Positive Q Score:


Read more of TheWrap's Q Score Series:

The Most and Least Liked Daytime TV Hosts – From Ellen to Wendy Williams

The Most and Least Liked Morning TV Hosts — From Robin Roberts to Kathie Lee Gifford



  • Jimmy Reagan

    Personally, I only like Jimmy Kimmel, Jon Stewart and Craig Ferguson.. As for Seth..Nah..he should have stuck with SNL, Conan hasn't been relevant since he was dumped by NBC, I can't stand Carson Daily, Fallon is a no talent corporate kiss-ass hack who knows Justin Timberlake…, Letterman is only funny to people whose Lunestia has yet to kick in..and Arsenio Hall?? Someone told him to do 1991 again..on a low budget scale….the rest of us said, “no thanks, we're good..”.. Not to mention, every time I pass AH, I see him being fake and pretending that we didn't see him being a whiny bit*h on Celebrity Apprentice a few years back … and then there's the fact that he's considered the ghetto talk show…. Yeah, I said it.. Whoop, whoop, whoop – I predict cancelation soon. Now I'm going to grab a drink with Andy and Chelsea..

    • AJ

      AH just got a second season. And no, I'm not a huge an of his either.

    • no thanks

      I didn't see Celebrity Apprentice…which I think I'd rather watch than “Andy” or “Chelsea” but that's a tough call on mental torture…

    • MaStEr_MoLd

      Perfectly called, sir.

    • Honey Badger Don't Care

      Arsenio Hall got picked up for season 2.

  • hosaaaa

    Late night TV only has one person of color and they ranked dead last in both categories. That's terrible.

    • Minority

      He is a minority. What about “minority” don't you understand. I'm part of a minority and I understand I will be represented as a minority.

    • Up and Over

      It's not because he's black….it's because he is not funny…just like his last run on his failed T.V. show. He sucks. Color has nothing to do with it.

      • Vash The Stampede

        “It's not because he's Black…” In your vain naivety, you really wish that were true…

      • Honey Badger Don't Care

        If color has nothing to do with it, why are there 50 white guys, and only 1 black guy?

    • Caley McGuire

      It would appear that they're having a hard time booking good guests.

    • Melissa

      There is a guy named Tavis Smiley on PBS…

  • hupto

    Letterman below Handler? The world has gone insane.

    • Caley McGuire

      It's demographics.

      • namesy

        meaningless statement

        • Craig Bradley

          actually it really is not….I do not agree with Handler being above a legend like Letterman at all but Caley is right. The demographic that the chart represents is 18-34, you have Handler having a relationship with 50 Cent, interviewing rappers, being best friends with the likes of Jennifer Aniston & Reese Witherspoon, the raunchy and crude comedy that she also offers….what do you think that demographic is going to lean towards? A more mature demographic will most likely lean towards Letterman because they grew up with him…he has been around for over 33 years. The nostalgia alone will make the mature demographic loyal to Letterman. Demographic will always determine ratings, no matter what era we live in.

  • CColvin

    Letterman is my buy forever. Fallon is ok, Seth a new face, Jay was too ingratiating. I like Conan, and Arsenio. Cannot stand Colbert, don't get him at all, Stewart makes good points but trivializes the news, their viewers won't do a damn thing about issues, just ha ha. Handler is yuck, the other inconsequensial. Dave is funnier, wittier and more aware then all of them. And I cannot stand this ageist attitude, if the writers live long enough, maybe they can make rotten cracks. This countries ageism sucks.

    • Alex

      Ageism has worsened and is destroying our culture. It is irrational and much of it is perpetrated by “old” people themselves, meaning the executives making these outdated ageist decisions are themselves old. So maybe instead of throwing out great talent just because they're older, or to cut costs so that some worthless executive can get a bigger bonus, how about some of these bad executives moving out to pasture instead.

      I'm still in the demo but even as a kid I was never ageist and always enjoyed talented people regardless of age. My friends were the same. The greatest tv shows would never make it to air now, and as kids we assiduously watched them. We never said “ewww that person is old” We laughed, and enjoyed, and learned from them, and aspired to something better.

  • Up and Over

    I surf them all….except Jon Stewart. He is HORRIBLE.

    • SageFeldemeyer

      YAY Jon!!! YAY Stephen!!

  • MaStEr_MoLd

    If Stephen Colbert actually made an effort to make fun of Bill O'Reilly directly, then I'd give him a chance. Otherwise, he's just a very unfunny “inside” joke.

    • adeab

      He has. On both the O'Reilly Factor and his own show.

    • SageFeldemeyer

      Stephen Colbert is a brilliant comedian. And he does a wonderful job speaking truth to the powerful! An American Treasure.

  • Forrest Bishop

    Give credit to Geoff Peterson and, Craig. If they ever need a nobody to be a guest I would be honored to do so.

  • seenable

    Craig Ferguson is criminally underrated.

    • AngelFaith

      We agree 100% !!! I hate surveys “results” because they never ask us, and only ask a low number of viewers!

    • billybatson

      Craig had a good show until he added that stupid robot.

      This ain't a kids show, it's a late night adult show, but Craig seems to have forgotten that.

      • BruceJenner

        What?! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING?! That robot is the only thing that makes the show more “adult-friendly”.

  • Proud Grandfather of 12

    Yeah the black guy is last.YOU RACISTS!

  • Proud Grandfather of 12

    Who is Andy Cohen?

  • Codyy

    I personally only like Jimmy Kimmel. He is absolutely hilarious once you watch and understand his humor. His show should have much more viewers, especially young adults who understand the humor. And I love Guillermo, the old security guard who was found sleeping in the workers cars he was guarding and is now on every show!

  • Honey Badger Don't Care

    Q scores? WTF? Why not just post a poll on your site? Fucking idiots.

  • Duke

    After watching Craig Ferguson ALL the others are toast in my book. He and Geoff send me to sleep every night with fits of laughter! What a pleasant way to end the day.

  • Andrew

    I can't believe Arsenio is last. He is the most genuinely funny comedian of all who can also have a pure entertaining show. May be thats why his show was just renewed after a 19 year absence. This is pure talent.

  • John

    Arsenio last? You've got to be kidding me. He dates back to when Leno started and he is still going strong. He can write his own jokes and be spontaneous while virtually all of those guys have a team that write their jokes for them and they just deliver them.

  • Melissa

    damn, what happened to Tavis Smiley?

  • Russell J Apgar

    I think politics played a big part in the decision making process. How seriously can you take a poll when a comedy show has the highest news rating likability. What a joke!!!! Either that or people are really low information news watchers.

  • david

    Fallon and Myers are Jokes and should be drop for some lame info-mercial, it would be better money spent. I don't want to watch SNL 6 nights a week and their not even good ones at that

  • Chesty Puller

    Chris Matthews even though he is first in hated Newscasters on here, on my personal all time list,working fired, or quit list…THE WORST PERSON ON TV is Keith Olbermann , I dont even think the guy has a soul anymore..Chris Matthews and his cut you off from speaking or laughing while you speak manner of beyond bad, but then again its on MSNBC so it really not seen by anyone, so who cares, and Keith Olbermann another that was on that unwatchable cable network, I think litterally SpongeBob Squarepants beats both of them in ratings, well for Olbermann when he has a job..He gets fired more than a M-16 owned by a Pissed off Marine surrounded by the Taliban…
    I like Fallon on the Tonight show, along with his band ” The Roots ” He is young now, he will get way better at that job as time goes by…
    I seen a post about Arsino, I dont dislike the guy, but his show I swear is sometimes like an infomercial more than a late night show..
    Myers, he is Ok but I dont think he will last long, to bad because he waited a long time doing the news on SNL waiting for that job opening…The show is slow moving, and its like the writers copied Fallons news and jokes for that day on what happened.

  • AngelFaith

    Indeed, Craig Ferguson is horribly underrated!! I question the survey numbers, etc.!! He is LOVED by 4 generations in our large family, so obviously appeals to ALL ages!!! His plethora of talents and intelligence are unmatched in late night television!!!!

  • cohojohn

    Letterman lost his appeal when he stuck his political opinions into his show

    • Omustgo

      He lost his appeal, along with half of his audience.He sucks.Good riddance!

      • Robert R

        That is why he's been on the air as a talk show host longer than anyone,ever. coincidence?

  • grape roberts

    Arseino rating is higher than 99 % of all these people on here. So a lot of people like him and watches him.

  • jazbond007

    The decision is so easy. Hire Leno. Second choice would be Triumph.

  • SideshowJon36

    Daily Show and their alum are highly overrated. Were people from outside NY/LA included in this survey?

  • Big___D

    Leno's gone, so why is he on the list? …why not include Carson (Johnny)? While the Comedy Centrail folks rule the roost, I count that as evidence this ranking is seriously sk(r)ewed. Personally, Fallon is a poor replacement for Leno, and I've mored to Kimmel, who is really good. Arsenio is good to. Chelsea who? Go figure.

    • Richard Adams

      Because they did the poll before leno was fired.

  • Fairtax2012

    Who the heck is Colbert?

  • The Skully

    Drew Carey should be the host of the new Late Show when Letterman leaves and CBS should broadcast from Cleveland, OH … I think it would be a show people would like to see.

  • Robert R

    I can't sit thru one Jimmy Fallon Tonight show. He's probably a nice guy,but can't sit thru even five minutes. It's a shame people like Dave are pushed out in the name of demographics.

  • Etickets

    Team Kimmel! His interviewing skills are underrated. Asks good questions and injects humor but never at the expense of the guest.

  • Keith Sparbanie

    Letterman USED to be the heir apparent to King Johnny Carson. He was brilliant. In his old age he's become too grumpy. sexist, and political. He blew it.