In April, Jon Batiste‘s We Are won the Grammy for album of the year in something of an upset over collections by Olivia Rodrigo and Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga, which many pundits had favored to win. In September, Batiste’s TV boss, Stephen Colbert, will try to score a similar upset at the 74th Primetime Emmy Awards, where The Late Show With Stephen Colbert is vying for its first win as outstanding variety talk show.
Jon Batiste and Stay Human has been the house band on The Late Show since Colbert succeeded David Letterman as host of the CBS franchise in 2015.
The biggest obstacle standing in the way of a Colbert victory is Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, which has won in the category the last six years in a row.
These two shows each received five total Emmy nominations this year, which arguably makes them the front-runners in this category. The other nominees are The Daily Show With Trevor Noah, Late Night With Seth Meyers and Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Three of these nominees would set records if they are announced as the winner when the 74th Primetime Emmy Awards are presented on Sept. 12 at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Colbert would be the first talk show host to win in the category (or its predecessor category, outstanding variety series) fronting two different shows. His Comedy Central show, The Colbert Report, won in 2013 and 2014.
Both The Late Show and The Daily Show would become just the second talk show franchise – following The Tonight Show — to win with two different hosts. The Late Show With David Letterman won six times in this category. The Daily Show With Jon Stewart won a remarkable 11 times. The definitive edition of The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson won in 1977 and 1992. The crowd-pleasing, but critically unloved, edition starring his successor Jay Leno won in 1995.
When Emmy voters find a favorite, they tend to stick with it, especially in this category. Since September 1998, when close to 100% of the jokes on late night variety talk shows centered on Bill Clinton’s tryst with Monica Lewinsky, just four shows have won outstanding variety talk show (or its predecessor award) – The Late Show With David Letterman, The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report and Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.
Let’s take a closer look at this year’s nominees for outstanding variety talk show. The shows are ranked by the total number of nominations they received this year. There’s a tie for the lead spot. As the reigning champ, Oliver’s show is listed first.