Late-Night Shows Return Just in Time for Iowa Caucus

Late-night returns: Jay Leno, David Letterman, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart (Photos: Getty Images, CBS)

The holidays can be a lot of laughs if you hang around with the right people, but we couldn’t help noting the absence of the late-night shows last week as we struggled to find anything to watch each evening ’round midnight.

Tonight, the late-night shows return — every single one of them is back on the air with new shows and guest lineups, and just in time for the Iowa Caucus today.

The Iowa balloting — kicking off Campaign Year 2012 — is sure to be one of the hottest topics in the late-night monologues, and also the focus of attention on the two most political late-night shows — “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “The Colbert Report” with Stephen Colbert. To help ease your way back into late-night TV, here’s a rundown of Tuesday night’s guests, plus a few notable guest bookings for the rest of the week:

“The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” (11:35/10:35c on NBC): Jay has a potentially combustible combination of female guests — outspoken NBC sitcom star Whitney Cummings and then Snooki (now referred to in listings as “Nicole ‘Snooki’ Polizzi”). Musical guest is Snooki’s on the show to promote this Thursday’s fifth-season premiere of “Jersey Shore” on MTV (10/9c). And some of her co-stars will be seen in late-night too (see “Kimmel” below). Notable Leno guest(s) later in the week: Rick and Corey Harrison, brothers of “Pawn Stars” on History Channel, join Jay on Wednesday.

“Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” (12:35/11:35c on NBC): William H. Macy will turn up Tuesday night to promote next Sunday’s (Jan. 8) season premiere of his Showtime series “Shameless” (9/8c). Also scheduled for Fallon: Wayward hockey star Sean Avery, who was just waived by the New York Rangers a few days ago. We wonder if he’ll show up, and if so, what’ll he say? UPDATE: Just as we suspected, Avery backed out — NBC said Monday the replacement guest for “Fallon” Tuesday night is comedian Chris Gethard. Musical guest: Black Star. Notable later in the week: On Friday, a performance by Wild Flag, current band of Carrie Brownstein, who co-stars with Fred Armisen in IFC’s “Portlandia” (which has its own season premiere this Friday night at 10/9c). Armisen’s on “Fallon” Thursday.

“Late Show with David Letterman” (11:35/10:35c on CBS): NBC sitcom star Will Arnett (“Up All Night”) and foul-mouthed comedian Lisa Lampanelli (she’s rumored to be an upcoming contestant on the next “Celebrity Apprentice” on NBC, so we’re wondering if she’ll spill any beans about that). Musical guest: Guided By Voices. Notable later in the week: Tina Fey on Thursday, promoting the season premiere a week later, on Jan. 12, of “30 Rock” on NBC. Tracy Morgan will also be making the late-night rounds this week (see below).

“Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” (12:35/11:35c): Craig has Carrie Fisher and “Criminal Minds” star Matthew Gray Gubler tonight. Notable later in the week: “That ’70s Show” star Laura Prepon on Friday — maybe she’ll explain how NBC’s new sitcom, “Are You There, Chelsea?” is supposed to work with Prepon playing Chelsea Handler and Handler herself playing her sister. Oh, brother.

“Jimmy Kimmel Live” (midnight/11c on ABC): Jimmy has Christina Ricci, who will hopefully fill us in on what’s happening with “Pan Am,” the low-rated new fall series that returns to ABC this coming Sunday night (10/9c) after a lengthy hiatus. Also on “Kimmel”: Mike (“The Situation”), Pauly, Ronnie and Vinnie from “Jersey Shore.” Musical guest: Mariachi El Bronx. Notable later in the week: Tracy Morgan on Thursday, the day after he appears on “Leno” on Wednesday.

“Conan” (11/10c on TBS): Conan O’Brien has Mindy Kaling of “The Office” and Gary Oldman of the movie “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.” Musical guest: Everlast. Notable later in the week: On Wednesday, comedian Dave Attell, who we used to see constantly on Comedy Central a few years back; and on Thursday, comedian Tom Papa, who might fill us in on the status of his NBC show, “The Marriage Ref” (though our guess is this show is history). We got to meet and interview Papa last year and he was a great interview, so we plan on watching his new Comedy Central standup special premiering this coming Sunday night at 10/9c).

“The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” (11/10c on Comedy Central): Charles Barkley.

“The Colbert Report”: Sen. Bernie Sanders (Ind., Vermont). Later in the week: AOL founder Steve Case on Thursday.

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