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Comedy Central 

The First Guests on 25 Late-Night Talk Shows

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Comedy Central 

1. The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson

The king of late night inherited The Tonight Show in its previous incarnation from host Jack Paar, and then parlayed it into the recognizable late night format we know today. Carson’s tenure began live on the air from studio 6B in Rockefeller Center on October 1, 1962. He was introduced by Groucho Marx and had an impressive roster of guests, including Joan Crawford, Mel Brooks, Tony Bennett, and bandleader Rudy Vallée. The musical guests were a folk trio called The Phoenix Singers. (In those days, the shows ran for a whopping hour and 45 minutes a night; today, they're typically a mere hour long.)

Virtually all of the recordings of The Tonight Show from before 1970 are lost because of NBC’s old practice of destroying or reusing their tapes, but you can hear audio of the first three minutes of Carson's first show above.

In May 1972, Carson moved the show from New York to Burbank, California, where it stayed until his last show on May 22, 1992. Guests on his first west coast program were actress Shelley Winters and then-First Lady of California, Nancy Reagan.

2. Late Night with David Letterman

In a bid to keep viewers—including that coveted younger demographic—tuned in after The Tonight Show, NBC created Late Night with David Letterman, which aired its first show on February 1, 1982 with guests Bill Murray and Mr. Wizard. Checkout Murray’s typically wacky first appearance above.

3. The Late Show with David Letterman

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When Carson retired in 1992, Letterman and Jay Leno vied for the spot behind The Tonight Show desk. Leno won what has since been dubbed as the first war for late night, but Letterman didn't come out a loser: He jumped to CBS for a new show to air at 11:35 p.m. Though Letterman retired on May 20th (making way for Colbert), his reign began on August 30, 1993 with cameos from Tom Brokaw and Paul Newman. Fittingly, the first guest was Bill Murray, while the musical guest was Billy Joel. You can see the monologue here.

4. The Tonight Show with Jay Leno

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In early 2014, Leno retired (for the second time), making way for Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show. But when he took over from Johnny Carson in 1992, his first guest was Billy Crystal. When Leno finally signed off (for the second and presumably final time), Crystal joined him as his last guest as well.

5. The Jay Leno Show

Shortly after Conan O'Brien took over The Tonight Show, Leno reneged on his promise to retire. So NBC created a primetime program for him called The Jay Leno Show, which aired at 10 p.m. The short-lived experiment began on September 14, 2009 with guest Jerry Seinfeld. An Entertainment Weekly cover story named it “TV’s Biggest Bomb Ever."

6. Late Night with Conan O’Brien

O’Brien was a lowly writer for The Simpsons when he was plucked from obscurity to take over Late Night from David Letterman on September 13, 1993. The early reviews were rough, but what followed became one of the most absurdly hilarious shows late night has ever seen. On his first show, O'Brien welcomed John Goodman, Drew Barrymore, and Tony Randall. Check out the typically self-deprecating first intro and monologue above.

7. The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien

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Jay Leno first stepped down from The Tonight Show in 2009, and O’Brien’s Tonight Show debuted on June 1, 2009 with Will Ferrell as the first guest and Pearl Jam as the musical guest. Shortly thereafter, NBC ousted O’Brien and returned Leno to his Tonight Show hosting duties, which he maintained until 2014. Clips from the show have mostly disappeared, but a recap shows the type of humor that typifies O’Brien’s hosting talents.

8. Conan

After being reluctantly ousted from The Tonight Show, the self-described “palest host in late night history” found a home on TBS with Conan. Speculation ran wild as to who the first guest was going to be, and it ended up being somebody no one—not even the person herself—could have guessed. Out of three possible choices, fans hilariously got to vote between Jack Nicholson, the Sultan of Brunei, or a woman named Arlene Wagner, the curator of the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum in Leavenworth, Washington. The other guests that night were Seth Rogen, Lea Michele, and musical guest Jack White.

9. The Arsenio Hall Show

The first incarnation of Arsenio’s late-night show was meant to be counterprogramming to the slew of elder statesmen hosts like Carson back in the late '80s and early '90s—a show that catered to a younger, more diverse crowd. On January 3, 1989, Hall's first guests were Brooke Shields, Leslie Nielsen, and musical guest Luther Vandross. You can see a clip from the show above.

On September 9, 2013, Hall returned to late night with a new version of The Arsenio Hall Show. As with his first show, his second go-around ran in syndication. On his first night back, Chris Tucker and Paula Abdul were guests, and Snoop Lion performed. But Hall's comeback was short-lived; the show was cancelled after just one season.

10. Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

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Fallon’s first night as host of Late Night got off to a rough start: He welcomed the not-so-willing-to-talk Robert De Niro, but things quickly changed when Justin Timberlake sat down to chat. The first musical guest was Van Morrison.

11. Jimmy Kimmel Live!

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In early 2013, Kimmel’s Live! show moved to the coveted 11:35 p.m. time slot to be in direct competition with heavy hitters like The Tonight Show, but Kimmel’s little-show-that-could originally began airing at 12:05 a.m. on January 26, 2003, where it slowly built a loyal following. That first show featured George Clooney, NFL-er Warren Sapp, Coldplay as the musical guest, and an appearance by Snoop Lion. Unfortunately, as always, Matt Damon didn’t appear because they ran out of time.

12. The Daily Show

The original version of The Daily Show bears little resemblance to its contemporary incarnation, with original host Craig Kilborn offering up heavy loads of snark instead of sharp political commentary. Kilborn’s debut show didn’t include a guest, but his second show featured an interview with actress Mary Kay Place.

In 1999, when Jon Stewart took over for Kilborn—who left to host The Late Late Show on CBS—the political slant gradually began to appear. But they kicked things off with a non-political guest as the fresh-faced Stewart chatted with actor Michael J. Fox.

13. The Colbert Report

On October 17, 2005, the nation was served up a heavy dose of truthiness as Stephen Colbert welcomed viewers to his new show. His first guest was Stone Phillips, his impressive neck, and his very firm handshake.

14. The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn

After departing The Daily Show, Craig Kilborn debuted as the host of The Late Late Show on CBS on March 30, 1999. The show followed Letterman at 12:35 a.m. and stole a little bit of its lead-in’s thunder with its first guest, Bill Murray. Supermodel Heidi Klum also appeared.

15. The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson

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In 2004, when Kilborn’s time was up on The Late Late Show, CBS tapped Scottish-American comedian Craig Ferguson to sit behind the desk. Though he had guest-hosted before, his first show as official host was on January 3, 2005 and included a sit-down with David Duchovny and actress Nicole Sullivan.

16. The Dick Cavett Show

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Cavett has had many talk show incarnations over the years, but he’ll always be remembered for his erudite and provocative late night show that ran on ABC from 1969 to 1975. His first guests on the premiere episode of The Dick Cavett Show were Woody Allen, opera singer Beverly Sills, President of Hunter College Jacqueline Wexler, and actor Robert Shaw.

17. The Late Show starring Joan Rivers

Legendary comedienne Joan Rivers was previously the permanent guest host on The Tonight Show when Carson was under the weather or unable to appear on the broadcast. Rumor has it that Rivers accepted her own show on the then-new Fox network because her name was left off a list of possible hosts to take over should Carson retire. The bad blood between the two continued until Carson’s death in 2005. The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers premiered on October 9, 1986 with Cher, Pee-Wee Herman, Elton John, and David Lee Roth as guests. The show soon fizzled in the ratings and led to Rivers being fired, and soon the show was helmed by a slew of guest hosts including Arsenio Hall, who used the experience to transition into his own late night show.

18. The Pat Sajak Show

Doesn’t it seem like everybody got their own show in the '80s? The good folks at CBS decided it would be a good idea to give Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak his own late-night talk show, and on January 9, 1989, The Pat Sajak Show premiered with Chevy Chase, actress Joan Van Ark, actor Michael Gross, Roberta Flack, an interview and performance by Naomi and Wynonna Judd, MLB commissioner Peter Ueberroth, and comedian Dennis Wolfberg. But quantity didn’t equal quality; the show was cancelled the next year.

19. The Chevy Chase Show

Chevy Chase began his notoriously brief period as a late night talk show host on September 3, 1993. The show debuted on Fox with guests Goldie Hawn and Whoopi Goldberg. Reviews of the show were immediately horrendous and the show was swiftly cancelled just one month later.

20. The Magic Hour

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Another half-baked, late-night endeavor was former basketball star Magic Johnson’s show The Magic Hour, which premiered in 1998. First guests included Mel Gibson, Laurence Fishburne, Cher, and musical performer Babyface. The—ahem—magic didn’t last long, and the series was cancelled after only three months on the air.

21. Last Call with Carson Daly

Renaissance man and host extraordinaire Carson Daly has been the skipper of Last Call with Carson Daly since 2002. Though it has recently rebranded its format away from the standard late night sit-downs pioneered by Johnny Carson, it began on January 8, 2002 as a fairly straightforward talk show that originally taped in studio 8H in Rockefeller Center—the same studio used for Saturday Night Live. Daly's first guest was singer Alicia Keys.

22. Lopez Tonight

Lopez Tonight debuted on TBS on November 9, 2009 in the 11p.m. time slot. Lopez’s diverse first guests were Eva Longoria, Kobe Bryant, and Ellen DeGeneres, with Carlos Santana playing “Oye Como Va.” The show was moved back to 12 a.m. after Conan came on board, and was cancelled in 2011.

23. THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON

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When Jimmy Fallon made his move into The Tonight Show chair on February 17, 2014, he welcomed Will Smith and U2 as his first guests.

24. LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS

Late Night With Seth Meyers / Facebook

One week after Jimmy Fallon made his Tonight Show debut, his fellow SNL alum—and former SNL head writer—Seth Meyers took over Late Night. For his first show, he interviewed Parks and Recreation's Amy Poehler (another SNL alum) and Vice President Joe Biden.

25. THE LATE LATE SHOW WITH JAMES CORDEN 

The Late Late Show With James Corden / Facebook

When James Corden took over The Late Late Show in March, Tom Hanks and Mila Kunis appeared as his first guests.

This story originally ran in February 2014.

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Why Your iPhone Doesn't Always Show You the 'Decline Call' Button
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When you get an incoming call to your iPhone, the options that light up your screen aren't always the same. Sometimes you have the option to decline a call, and sometimes you only see a slider that allows you to answer, without an option to send the caller straight to voicemail. Why the difference?

A while back, Business Insider tracked down the answer to this conundrum of modern communication, and the answer turns out to be fairly simple.

If you get a call while your phone is locked, you’ll see the "slide to answer" button. In order to decline the call, you have to double-tap the power button on the top of the phone.

If your phone is unlocked, however, the screen that appears during an incoming call is different. You’ll see the two buttons, "accept" or "decline."

Either way, you get the options to set a reminder to call that person back or to immediately send them a text message. ("Dad, stop calling me at work, it’s 9 a.m.!")

[h/t Business Insider]

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