The television talk show is far too often a boring, archaic, stilted ritual that entertains no one, including the host.
At times, though, it can shine, depending on the guests.
The new Tom Hanks movie Larry Crowne was a bland bomb, but that's okay: He did publicity for it, and that means showing up on (just about any and all) talk shows as a guest, and he's a great one.
What makes a good talk-show guest? Someone who understands the dynamic -- you're not having anything close to a real conversation, so have two or three good anecdotes and be prepared to riff. Two other factors:
1) Be game for prepared bits;
and 2) Don't appear with Jay Leno. Even the best guests wilt under the baffling power of his ineptitude as a host.
Hanks is one of the top five talk-show guests on the circuit right now, but is he number one? Let's see:
5. Nathan Lane You don't know Broadway, so you don't know Nathan Lane, except for Mouse Hunt or some other bad movie. But David Letterman has called him one of his consistently best guests, and again, it comes down to understanding his role.
And he's always up for a song:
4. Peter O'Toole The tradition of the grand British theater anecdote is slowly fading away as the masters of the art die off. There are no more Richard Burtons or Alec Guinesses to tell, long, involved, name-dropping tales that inevitably involve copious amounts of liquor. But we still have Peter O'Toole, who brings the added value of never quite knowing if he's all there at the moment, or if that pause is just momentary.
3. Matt Damon Always charming, Matt Damon seems to get as much a kick out of his prepared anecdotes as the audience.
And of course, there are these two things:
...both of which were first-round Hall of Talk-Show Guest Fame inductees.2. Martin Short
The inside-show-biz schtick never gets old, as he performs as a talk-show guest while playing off the cliches of being a talk-show guest. Extra points if the show has him get up and sing.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
1. Tom Hanks Yes, he's number one. Willing to do just about anything, either in a pre-taped piece or a bit of spontaneity.