The Late Night Wars. Cue the seven-piece stage band playing suspenseful music. The story always revolves around Jay Leno and David Letterman, and the unamicable split that broadened the late night talk show game. Conan O’Brien, Letterman’s successor as NBC’s Late Night host, could have had his entire career thwarted – or at least mildly delayed – by one David Spade, who turned down some pretty solid money to replace Letterman.
Had he agreed, Spade would have been welcomed into the replacement slot once Letterman left to take over the Late Show on CBS, which came after the Late Night gig was turned down by Garry Shandling and Dana Carvey. But Spade was too into keeping his slot at Saturday Night Liveto do it. Here’s how Spade put it during an interview with Colin Cowherd.
Spade split that story by saying at that point, he was just trying not to get fired from SNL, not thinking he could compete as well against Adam Sandler and his songwriting and Chris Farley and his characters. He was more interested in keeping sketch-based stuff going than taking over as the host of anything on a permanent basis. Can’t hate on that motivation, as not everyone wants to trade career paths like that, but O’Brien worked a lot of sketch comedy into his shows, though probably of a weirder variety than what Spade would have brought.
Understandably, Spade saying no surprised his superiors. The comedian said he was first offered $1 million a year, which would have been a good promotion at the time. And then the offer was doubled to $2 million, but he still turned it down. I would be a terrible host of any kind, and while I would love to milk a lot of money out of someone to test that for a year, that wouldn’t be in anyone’s best interest. And no one should ever forgive the person that would stop the Masturbating Bear from entering our lives as soon as possible.
Spade went deeper into his decision not to go the talk show route.
You can watch a clip from that interview below.
David Spade went on to star in Just Shoot Me (among other sitcoms) and to host Comedy Central’s The Showbiz Show , and Conan O’Brien went on to amaze audiences across three different talk shows across two different networks,. O’Brien ended up entering the Late Night Wars story over The Tonight Show, while Spade dodged those bullets. Is the world a better place?
Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.
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