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How Late-Night Variety Shows Effect Candidates

In many ways it is the beginning of a new era for the late-night TV show line-up. Between Stephen Colbert leaving his position at The Colbert Report to take David Letterman’s spot on The Late Show, Jon Stewart leaving his position at The Daily Show, and the beginning of new season of Saturday Night Live variety shows have embraced a wave of change in the past few months. In many ways these shows provide an assortment of informative or comedic entertainment to a very large audience, with the most popular shows attracting on average anywhere from one million to 3.5 million viewers (zap2it.com). The power of these shows has often been used by music artists to launch new albums or EPs, actors to promote new movies or TV shows, and by some people you perhaps wouldn’t expect to find shooting the breeze with Jimmy Fallon: politicians. A politician appearing on any variety show has become increasingly popular over the past decade because it provides that politician three very essential things for a very marginal cost: a platform, an atmosphere, and a time slot. Variety shows provide politicians a platform to express their ideas and their philosophies- what they stand for, what they believe in, and perhaps most importantly, why they stand for these things. These shows also provide a less serious atmosphere that the politician can engage in, and allow people to see him/her in a less serious and more humble way. (A great example of this is Hillary Clinton’s desire to make herself more approachable by playing the role of a bartender named “Val” on the season premier of Saturday Night Live this past October 3rd, 2015.) Finally, appearing on a variety show allows a politician to get air time without having to spend millions of dollars in Iowa or Florida. All these benefits make the late night variety show sphere hotly contested, especially with the new wave of talk show hosts taking their positions. More people are watching these new hosts, and for a candidate who is looking to improve their public perception getting invited onto one of these shows seems like a golden ticket to Wily Wonka’s Factory.