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Emmy Contenders to Watch and Where to Stream Them: Variety Talk Series

Many of TV's best variety talk series (and Emmy contenders) are just a few keystrokes away.

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah on “The Late Show”


Keeping yourself up to date on contenders in just about any Emmy Award category would usually require a whole host of subscriptions to any number of streaming services. But that’s just not the case when it comes to Outstanding Variety Talk Series.

It’s not that the contenders are any less diverse than in other categories. (Rather, it’s not that the number of outlets offering high-quality variety talk programming is any less diverse than in other categories. The hosts of said series still lean predominantly male, predominantly white.) It’s that in order to sample some of the best and brightest bits from any given variety talk series in one place away from their home networks, all a person needs is relatively stable internet (or wireless) connection and access to YouTube.

Almost certainly a reflection of our ever-changing media landscape, networks, whether they’re cable, broadcast, or streaming, make large portions of their variety talk series available on YouTube, an easy conduit to virality and a brilliant way to be seen by audiences that are time-shifting their viewing habits more often than not.

So with no further adieu, here are the easiest ways to access those shows contending for Emmy glory:


Consider this the one-stop-variety-talk-shopping of the streaming world. If you want entertainment from the world of late night comedy, this is the place to be, whether you’re looking for the heavy-hitting sure things or the fringe element dark horses.

HBO’s “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver,” winner of Variety Talk Series for the last four years, can be found on YouTube, though only the bulk of the individual episode. (The opening segment is only available to viewers checking it out on HBO Go and the bewildering assortment of the HBO family of apps.) “Real Time with Bill Maher” is also available on the streaming site, broken into individual segments — but the series hasn’t been nominated in the category since 2016.

From CBS, perennial nominees “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and “The Late Late Show with James Corden” appear on their individual YouTube channels in similar fashion, broken down into individual segments, as opposed to a lump sum bulk video offering.

Other network variety talk series follow the same model, with segments and interviews and monologues broken out into videos of their own, making for bite size — some might say quick bite sized — morsels for your comedy pleasure. This includes NBC shows “Late Night with Seth Meyers” which has been continually (and wrongly) overlooked in the category to date and “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” which also hasn’t been nominated in the category since 2016. (Strange. What could have happened in 2016 to turn people against Jimmy Fallon?)

ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” is also easily available on YouTube in segmented form.

This also seems like a good time to mention that for the most part, many of the above shows currently have the feel of your every day Zoom calls for work, but with significantly more famous people. Quarantine is fun!

On TBS’ (and, ultimately, YouTube) “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” the eponymous host is placing emergency calls to Senator Elizabeth Warren and letting her children dye her hair, which is all great fun, while Trevor Noah, host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” (as seen on YouTube) is getting increasingly scruffy as he runs the show from his home.

Other contenders and, hell, longshots include:

NBC’s “A Little Late With Lilly Singh,” Showtime’s “Desus and Mero,” TBS’ “Conan,” and Netflix’s “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj” are all easily available to stream (yes, even the Netflix show) on YouTube.

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