14 Legendary Late-Night Appearances by Cutting-Edge Comedians

Watch some of your favorite stand-ups as little baby edgelords
14 Legendary Late-Night Appearances by Cutting-Edge Comedians

Every mega-successful comedian had to start somewhere! And, I mean, Johnny Carson’s studio is like, a really good place to start. 

Hannibal Buress on ‘The Late Late Show’

Three years before his debut album dropped, Buress popped onto Craig Ferguson’s show to talk about personal checks, job interviews and his career aspirations.

Maria Bamford on ‘The Martin Short Show’

Bamford dropped by the short-lived Martin Short Show in 1999 to talk sex ed from nervous moms, God’s cruel master plan and her life as a radical militant feminist.

Steven Wright on ‘The Tonight Show’

Wright appeared on Carson’s show in 1982 to discuss how being born via cesarean section has impacted his life, buying discount office items, having his apartment robbed (kind of) and a ton of other bizarre non sequiturs.

Jim Carrey on ‘The Tonight Show’

In 1983, when he had only been in Hollywood “about 10 months,” Carrey led with his eyebrows and never looked back. He delivered Gumby-armed impressions of Elvis, Jack Nicholson and everyone’s favorite: General Secretary of the Communist Party Leonid Brezhnev.

Ellen DeGeneres on ‘The Tonight Show’

When she was still a two-name human like the rest of us, back in 1986, Ellen joked about staying fit at the ripe age of 27, her dull childhood and her most disappointing Christmas gift.

Sam Kinison on ‘Late Night’

In 1985, Letterman introduced Kinison in his network debut as “one of the strangest and most original comedians… Brace yourselves, I’m not kidding.” Kinison lived up to the hype, training his pastoral enthusiasm (and primal bellow) on an unsuspecting audience member in the first minute.

Eddie Murphy on ‘The Tonight Show’

As he was starting to really pop off on SNL, Murphy popped over to Carson’s show to talk about bulgeless underwear models, the overrepresentation of Buckwheats on television and the second career he planned to start.

Garry Shandling on ‘The Tonight Show’

Shandling made his network debut in 1981, immediately admitting to robbing a bank before describing his utter disdain for babies and imagining dog nightmares. 

David Letterman on ‘The Tonight Show’

Letterman dropped by The Tonight Show for the first of many times in 1978, kicking things off with some light xenophobia by lashing out at immigrants in his first two jokes for some reason. 

Roseanne Barr on ‘The Tonight Show’

America’s sweetheart made her first TV appearance in 1985, doing a fakeout impression of Barbra Streisand and describing her train of thought as a self-described fat person. 

Drew Carey on ‘The Tonight Show’

Carey opens up this 1991 set with “yeah, I know what I look like, thanks” — while looking exactly the same as he would for decades. He goes on to discuss high school reunions, small talk and, of course, Cleveland.

Louie Anderson on ‘The Tonight Show’

In this 1984 appearance, Anderson kicks off with a fat joke and chases it with… several more fat jokes.

Norm Macdonald on ‘Late Night’

In his 1990 network TV debut on Letterman’s Late Night, a young, handsome Macdonald cracked wise about bizarre Olympic sports, the modern food chain and disappointing celebrity cameos.

Norm Macdonald’s Teary Goodbye to Letterman

In 2015, Letterman invited Macdonald back for his final episode of The Late Show. Macdonald saunters out and delivers jokes in the same voice and cadence as he did 25 years earlier, before choking up talking about his earliest memory of Letterman.

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