Tweet Heat – Battle of the Late Night Hosts

(NBC/CBS/Comedy Central)

(NBC/CBS/Comedy Central)

Looks like 2010’s biggest TV feud has spilled over into the world of Twitter.  Recently deposed ‘Tonight Show‘ host Conan O’Brien emerged from exile last week to join the ubiquitous social-networking site—and found himself with nearly half a million followers within 72 hours.  (Team Coco lives!)

But Conan’s a little late to the party: Most of the other late night talk show hosts have already jumped feet-first into the tweeting pool.  And it makes sense: Twitter is the perfect vehicle for the kind of pithy one-liners that late night TV thrives on.  If a joke gets cut, or comes to mind after taping, now there’s a way to get it out to the masses instantly.  It’s brand extension, 140 characters at a time.

So who is winning the late night Twitter war? Take a look at the results below:

Conan O’Brien (@conanobrien)

For all the hubbub, Conan’s only given us a grand total of five tweets (as of Monday morning).  So far, Conan’s sticking to playfully mocking his unemployment, with one tweet in particular leaving us a bit concerned about his mental state: “This morning I watched Remington Steele while eating Sugar Smacks out of a salad bowl. I was naked.”  First rule of Twitter, Conan: Watch the TMI.  (Otherwise known as The Tila Tequila Rule.)

Key Tweet:This is only my 5th tweet and I’m already exhausted. My God, how does Ashton do it?
Followers: 456, 973
Followability: Very high—just on the off-chance of a 20-tweet meltdown when Jay returns to ‘The Tonight Show’ this week.

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Jay Leno (@jayleno)

All the media reports gloating that Conan already has ten times as many Twitter followers as Jay aren’t really being fair: Jay’s account isn’t written by him.  It’s basically a crass promotional vehicle for his now-defunct ‘Jay Leno Show.’  (But really, what on Twitter *isn’t* a crass promotional vehicle?)  Maybe when ‘The Tonight Show’ swings back into gear, Jay will throw a few extra monologue jokes our way.  But as of now, not much to see here.

Key Tweet: “Here’s a sneak peek of Jay in his red-hot outfit.”  Um, no thanks.
Followers: 31, 231
Followability: Low… unless you’re a big fan of Leno backstage photos.

Jimmy Fallon (@jimmyfallon)

He may not be the King of Late Night, but he’s the undisputed King of Late Night Tweeters: Fallon, the host of NBC’s ‘Late Night,’ has collected nearly 2.5 million followers so far.  Not surprisingly, really: Fallon’s always positioned himself as the most tech-savvy, social-media-friendly of the late night hosts.  (And he should be; he’s twenty years younger than most of his competition.)  He knows his way around a tweet, offering inside jokes and TwitPics galore.

Key Tweet: “I’m doing what every 35-year-old male is doing—watching the Teen Mom finale on MTV.”
Followers: 2,491,905
Followability: High.  C’mon, everybody’s doing it!

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Chelsea Handler (@chelsealately)

With her E! show ‘Chelsea Lately,’ Handler has cornered the market on catty celeb-bashing.  So it’s not a shock that her Twitter feed offers more of the same.  Sure, there’s some of the usual self-promotion going on here—but the random shots at self-important celebrities make it well worth wading through.

Key Tweet: “Paris Hilton said she had a ‘low key’ birthday this year.  Which is Hilton for ‘I don’t have any friends.'”
Followers: 2,015,938
Followability: Sky high.  We love us some catty Chelsea.

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Craig Ferguson (@craigyferg)

Even the acerbic host of CBS’s ‘Late Late Show‘ couldn’t resist the siren song of Twitter forever; he joined early last month.  And we’re glad he caved: Fergy’s always been the most loose-lipped of the late night hosts, and loose lips coupled with a Twitter account is a recipe for entertainment.

Key Tweet: “Today is the birthday of Copernicus.  The first man to prove the world does not revolve round Tiger Woods.”
Followers: 119,584
Followability: Pretty high.  He gets the Most Likely To Apologize for a Profanity-Laced Tweet award.

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David Letterman (@late_show)

Dave’s made no bones about the fact that he’s baffled by Twitter.  (Cut him some slack: The man is in his 60s.)  Fans got their hopes up when he took to the official ‘Late Show‘ Twitter feed during a December episode, tweeting odd observations like “Do you smell veal and peppers?”  But since then, it’s been your basic “here’s who’s on the show tonight” filler.  A missed opportunity, to be sure.

Key Tweet: “Exclusive: Nicole Richie announces her engagement to Joel Madden on Friday’s Late Show.”  Really, Dave?  Really?  *shaking head sadly*
Followers: 15,478
Followability: Quite low.  Unless someone cooks up some more veal and peppers.

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Stephen Colbert (@stephenathome)

Like many celebrities, the host of Comedy Central’s ‘Colbert Report‘ is the victim of several fake Twitter accounts.  But this one is the real deal, delivering bite-size servings of the deadpan mock-conservative sarcasm we’ve come to expect.  Hey, nearly 1.5 million followers can’t be wrong.

Key Tweet: “Global warming doesn’t exist because it’s cold outside.  Simple equation: eyes + snow = science.”
Followers: 1,438,108
Followability: If you’re in the market for truthiness?  As high as it gets.

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Larry King (@kingsthings)

Now here’s a case of a man being ahead of his time.  Remember King’s USA Today newspaper columns, with their random cultural musings?  (“You know who’s a solid actor?  That Brian Dennehy… What’s better than a well-made omelet?  Nothing, that’s what…”)  They were basically tweets trapped in newsprint.  Unfortunately, his Twitter feed gives us none of that homespun charm, offering only banal updates on his CNN show.  And there’s a simple reason for that: Larry King has no idea what a Twitter is.

Key Tweet: “Happy Birthday Dame Elizabeth Taylor!”  (Does Elizabeth Taylor have a Twitter feed?  Of course she does!)
Followers: 1,621,357
Followability: Much like his show, for insomniac seniors only.

And the winners, Winter Olympics-style…

BRONZE: Colbert.    He sneaks onto the podium with a nice combo of quantity and quality.
SILVER: Handler.  It’s like getting a stream of snarky texts from your funniest girlfriend.
GOLD: Fallon.  Tough to argue with 2.5 million followers.  Conan, take note: Re-tweeting pays off.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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