People love to talk, especially about themselves. Well, most of them. Introverts would rather invent a natural disaster, or stick a fork in their eye while setting their hair on fire than engage in small talk with strangers – and most definitely not about themselves. Anything that begins with “let’s go around the room” will have them running for the hills.
But extroverts and celebrities: you can put them on a couch, throw a few leading questions at them, then sit back and watch the magic happen. You’d think being a host of such a show doesn’t require much effort; this is not true.
Getting guests to sparkle is a rare skill. Michael Parkinson, now retired, was the master of them all, and Graham Norton does a spectacular job…mostly. Two of the biggest disappointments on his red couch were Johnny Depp and Robert De Niro. Both of them, dull as dishwater, shame.
Talk shows can take various formats and focus on different topics. The late night talk show usually opens with a monologue by the host, can include skits and entertainment, as well as interviews with guests. Think Conan O’Brien, Jay Leno, and from the history books, Larry King and Johnny Carson.
The daytime talkies are similar but tamer by necessity. Ellen DeGeneres plays silly games with her audience members, while the queen of daytime talk, Oprah, aimed to inspire and uplift viewers, and often tissues were required. She also gave away lots of cool prizes. The live band is a familiar feature too, with light banter between the leader and the show host.
Depending on your area of interest, here are some talk shows available to stream on Showmax and Netflix.
2 Dope Queens (Showmax)
Two dope queens and two short four-episode seasons: Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson hosted their podcast recorded live at Brooklyn’s Union Hall. Edited from two hours down to one for broadcast, each episode includes a lot of the hosts’ insights, as well as guest comedians (with emphasis on POC and LGBTQ), and a star guest joining them for an extended interview. These include Jon Stewart, Sarah Jessica Parker, Uzo Aduba, Daniel Radcliffe and Keegan-Michael Key.
A Little Help with Carol Burnett (Netflix)
The insights of children are timelessly entertaining. In this show, comedy legend Carol Burnett is joined by a celebrity guest star who gets to pose their most troubling questions to a panel of children aged five to nine years old. Among the guests are Lisa Kudrow, Taraji P Henson and Wanda Sykes.
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (Netflix)
Jerry Seinfeld – another heavyweight comedian – rounds up other comedians, puts them in a cool car, adds coffee and lets the laughs do the rest. There are six collections to tuck into, and guests include Larry David, Ricky Gervais, Alec Baldwin and oh so many more.
David Letterman’s My Next Guest Needs No Introduction (Netflix)
Well, what do you know? Another legend of the genre. Letterman is also one of Seinfeld’s car and coffee guests. The title is fairly self-explanatory – Barack Obama (in his first talk show appearance after leaving office), Kanye West, Ellen DeGeneres, Tina Fey, Howard Stern…
“Letterman’s Netflix series is almost entirely about private citizens acting for the public good. His emphasis in speaking to Obama is not about the reach of public office as much as it is about how change of any sort ends up arising from the actions of interested individuals,” says Variety.
It’s also very much about Letterman’s beard. Season 3 lands on 21 October 2020.
Die Republiek van Zoid Afrika (Showmax)
In six seasons of this show – in Afrikaans, no subtitles – singer and musician Karen Zoid talks to her favourite South Africans. Guests include Riaan Cruywagen, Kurt Darren, Casper de Vries, David Kramer, Pieter-Dirk Uys … even Helen Zille, although for the most part, the guests are from the entertainment industry. One could argue politics is entertaining too but perhaps not so much at the moment.
Elvis Goes There (Showmax)
In four one-hour episodes, veteran film critic and scholar Elvis Mitchell follows A-list celebs around the world and interviews them, while finding out how the locations shaped their work. The guests are Paul Feig (frequent Melissa McCarthy collaborator, director of the 2016 Ghostbusters as well as a host of top shelf TV series), Ryan Coogler (Black Panther director and one of Time’s most influential people in 2018), Sofia Coppola (way more than Nic Cage’s cousin: she won the best original screenplay Oscar for Lost In Translation) and Guillermo De Toro (director of Oscar-winning film The Shape of Water).
Fun fact: Mitchell played himself in an episode of Entourage in 2007.
Off Camera with Sam Jones (Netflix)
Over the course of three seasons, photographer and director Sam Jones interviews the likes of Will Ferrell, Ethan Hawk, John Hamm, Lizzy Caplan and Kevin Bacon – in stylish black and white. One of the best things about celebrity talk shows is having access to the superstars as themselves and not as a character. Sometimes they are the same thing, but with the real actors you can see the difference. Not a guest here, but an example, Jensen Ackles (Supernatural) has a “Dean Voice”.
Says Decider: “Jones has an easy rapport with his interview subjects, who he’s usually previously worked with. Nearly every episode points to a previous conversation they’ve had, and a request to ‘do this over drinks next time’ by the end, showing that there’s a comfort in the room.”
The Dan Nicholl Show (Showmax)
Dan Nicholl is quite the man. He’s had a long and distinguished career in the media industry as a presenter, writer, editor and award-winning columnist. His website tells us this show combines Dan’s “engaging style and sharp wit, with famous guests revealing personal stories and surprising anecdotes, the show has developed a strong, passionate following.”
Those guests, international and local, include stars of the entertainment and sporting worlds.
The Hollywood Masters (Netflix)
Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Cane, Sean Penn, Pedro Almodóvar – three hefty seasons of half-hour episodes moderated by The Hollywood Reporter’s Stephen Galloway were filmed on the campus of Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film and Television in front of a student audience. Each episode “takes an in-depth look at the life and career of one Hollywood icon. The series is filmed by a crew comprised largely of LMU students and alumni,” says The Hollywood Reporter.
The Shop (Showmax)
Snoop Dogg, Jon Stewart, Drake, Jimmy Kimmel and Ice Cube are some of the big names who step into barber shops across America to chat to LeBron James and Maverick Carter about sports, pop culture, world events, business and more, in the relaxed setting of a barber shop.
Like the nail salon, it’s more than just about the personal grooming. It’s about hanging out and shooting the breeze. Okay, gossiping too.
“Cameras positioned in seemingly every corner of the shop capture the participants as they get their hair trimmed, swill brandy and lounge in leather armchairs. Stylish black-and-white photographs of guests arriving at the shop serve as act breaks and enhance the show’s documentary feel,” said the LA Times review.