Late-night talk shows have been a pop culture staple for decades. While today’s hosts are pretty friendly with each other, there was a time when the competition for ratings was fierce, pitting hosts like David Letterman, Jay Leno, and Conan O’Brien against each other in what became known as the “Late Night Wars.” These days, net worth seems to be a better indicator of success than ratings, at least as far as status is concerned. For example, how does Jimmy Kimmel’s net worth compare to Jimmy Fallon’s net worth? Gossip Cop dug into the salaries and estimated net worths of broadcast television’s late-night lineup. Find out who comes out on top as the richest late-night talk show host.
Seth Meyers’ current net worth is estimated at $26 million. Before landing Late Night with Seth Meyers in 2014 (which he took over from Jimmy Fallon when Fallon left to host The Tonight Show), he was a writer and performer on Saturday Night Live, where he famously anchored “Weekend Update” alongside Tina Fey. In addition to his earnings from 13 years on SNL, Meyers’ net worth includes an annual salary of $5 million for his late-night hosting duties.
Despite his hefty income, the 47-year-old comedian is known for his kindness and generosity. During the coronavirus shutdown, for example, Meyers reportedly paid his staff out of his own pocket to keep them gainfully employed. The host says the pandemic definitely changed the way he worked as a late-night TV host. “I think ultimately to do these jobs, the only way it works is if you can sort of evolve — and ideally not because of worldwide pandemics — but just because of the fact that over the course of any given year, you should change some ways,” he said in a recent interview with CNN.
As host and executive producer of ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Kimmel earns a reported annual salary of $15 million and has an estimated net worth of $50 million. The 53-year-old comedian has been at it for a long time, making his debut as a late-night host when Live! premiered way back in 2003. In fact, he’s the longest-running late-night host of all time, with a current deal to bring his show to at least Season 20.
Kimmel says it was another late-night icon who inspired him to become a talk show host. “David Letterman, growing up, was my Jesus to the point where it’s embarrassing,” he told Variety in 2015.“You know, I had ‘L8NIGHT’ written on my license plate. It was personalized. I had a Letterman jacket … my 16th birthday cake said, you know, ‘Late Night With David Letterman’ with the cake.”
Now that’s true dedication! Before hosting Jimmy Kimmel Live!, the writer and comedian worked in radio for many years and hosted successful Comedy Central shows like Win Ben Stein’s Money and The Man Show. During his late-night run, Kimmel has taken a number of side gigs, including hosting the Emmy Awards and a revamped version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
The Tonight Show star Jimmy Fallon earns an estimated $16 million a year and has a reported net worth of $60 million. Like Seth Meyers, Fallon got his start on Saturday Night Live, appearing as a cast member for eight years. He left in 2004 to pursue a mildly successful movie career, which included films like the comedy Fever Pitch with Drew Barrymore.
Fallon didn’t become a late-night host until 2009 when he was tapped to take over for Conan O’Brien on NBC’s Late Night, which aired after The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. Slowly and steadily, he built up a faithful audience and garnered a reputation as a solid host. In 2014, he was chosen to succeed Jay Leno on The Tonight Show, and he’s been hosting ever since. While his ratings slipped for a while, the show has recently been experiencing an uptick and was just renewed for five more years.
That means Jimmy Fallon’s net worth is bound to go up, though the 46-year-old host says that he didn’t get into late night hosting for the cash. “Don’t do it for money. You’ll never make money,” he said in a 2018 interview with USA Today. “Do it because you like it and you like what you’re doing. And then, the secret is, you may end up making money. But don’t go into it thinking that you’re doing this for money, because I never thought about money.”
Compared to the other late-night hosts, James Corden has a lower salary of $9 million for hosting The Late Late Show with James Corden. Still, he has one of the highest overall net worths. CelebrityNetWorth.com estimates that James Corden is worth a massive $70 million.
Before breaking into the late-night scene, he was a well-known actor across the pond, appearing on popular British TV shows like Fat Friends and Gavin & Stacey and hosting award shows and specials. In 2015, Corden took over for Craig Ferguson on The Late Late Show, which quickly became popular thanks to his Carpool Karaoke segments going viral on YouTube.
Like Seth Meyers, Corden generously used his own money to help cover the salaries of staff members affected by the coronavirus shutdown. Alongside his Late Late Show duties, the 42-year-old entertainer has continued to work as an actor. Twice he’s hosted both the Grammy Awards and the Tony Awards. He also inked a lucrative deal with Apple to license the rights to adapt Carpool Karaoke for their music platform.
But for Corden, the most important part of his job as a late-night host is having fun. “I think my job is to care about the show– to– to a ridiculous amount, the beat of it, the tone of it,” he said in a 2020 interview with 60 Minutes. “Until the moment I start hosting it. And then my job is to just only be on a quest for fun. A lifelong, up at dawn, pride-swallowing siege for fun.
With a $16 million annual salary and an estimated net worth of $75 million, Stephen Colbert is the king of late-night television as far as cash is concerned. The 57-year old comedian had a successful career before The Late Show, appearing alongside Steve Carell and Jon Stewart on The Daily Show before hosting his own Comedy Central show, The Colbert Report, for nine years.
When David Letterman famously retired from The Late Show in 2014, Colbert was tapped to be his successor. Audiences were skeptical at first, as he had hosted The Colbert Report in-character as the right-wing commentator he played on The Daily Show. Coming to CBS’s late-night lineup, he would drop the popular persona and host the show as himself — which was something he was looking forward to. “I guess it’s flattering that people thought I was an actual pundit or a newsman, eventually, over the years,” he said in a 2015 interview with CBS Sunday Morning (as reported by CNN). “But it’s really nice not to have to pretend it anymore.”
While it took audiences some time to warm up to Colbert’s real-life persona, they eventually embraced it. The Late Show’s ratings began to spike significantly after the inauguration of Donald Trump in 2017. During its 2019 to 2020 season, it was the most-watched late-night program, with an average of 3.6 million viewers.