James Corden, Jimmy Fallon and 5 Other Late-Night Hosts Reveal Favorite Cut Jokes, Comedy Crushes

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Top row, left to right: Samantha Bee, James Corden and Jimmy Fallon. Bottom row, left to right: Bill Maher, Hasan Minhaj, Conan O'Brien and Lilly Singh.

Samantha Bee, James Corden, Jimmy Fallon, Bill Maher, Hasan Minhaj, Conan O'Brien and Lilly Singh break down comedy in 2019.

The last year in late night has been full of shake-ups — between cancellations for Sarah Silverman and Busy Philipps, a revamped half-hour format for Conan O’Brien, the debut of Netflix’s Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj and a history-making foray into network TV for Lilly Singh, replacing Carson Daly this fall with A Little Late. Some things have stayed the same, though, like Stephen Colbert continuing to rule the talk show ratings, John Oliver sweeping the Emmys, James Corden singing in cars with superstars and Jimmy Fallon challenging A-listers to drinking games.

And, of course, there was lots of Trump talk. Hot takes on Brett Kavanaugh, Robert Mueller, immigration, abortion and the president himself filled the late-night space, with Seth Meyers, Jimmy Kimmel, Samantha Bee, Bill Maher and Trevor Noah devoting much of their shows to taking on the Republican party. With new faces and more platforms, late night is buzzier — and more powerful — than ever.

As part of The 40 Most Powerful People in Comedy list, The Hollywood Reporter quizzed some of late night's biggest names on their favorite cut jokes, comedy crushes and comedy in 2019. 

What's a joke you loved that never made it to air? 

Jimmy Fallon: Years ago, we almost aired a colonoscopy sketch called "The Perfect Butthole." Almost. 

James Corden: We had a bunch of President Hillary Clinton jokes ready to go for the day after the 2016 election. I would have really liked those to make it to the air.

Bill Maher: I’m not going to tell you! If it never made it to air, it was really bad. What, are you trying to get me fired? They’ve tried before, oh they try a lot.

Conan O’Brien: We had a sketch called "Chewbacca Stuck in a Glory Hole." Let’s just say there were issues.

Hasan Minhaj: These were two jokes from our last script that got cut, but they made me laugh: "That's John Colton, who looks like the racist coach in a movie about the first black basketball team," and "That's John Bolton, the Groucho mask that loves war."

Samantha Bee: Trump's too scared to say the full I-word (Impeachment) because he thinks impeachment means getting trapped inside a giant peach. [Mockup: Trump looks anxiously out the porthole of a giant peach that is being flown out to sea] "Help! Un-peach me!"

What's a comedy movie you'll drop everything to watch?

Fallon: Fever Pitch. I’ve trained my kids to yell "Residuals!" whenever it comes on.

Corden: Waiting for Guffman.

Maher: Bruno or American Psycho. I don’t know if people think of that as a comedy but it is, a really funny one. That’s one anytime it’s on and I start watching it, I can’t stop.

O'Brien: That Fast and Furious movie where people in cars battle a submarine.

Lilly Singh: White Chicks. It’s comedic gold.

Minhaj: Back to the Future. Ghostbusters. The Sandlot. Home Alone.

Comedy in 2019 is ___ 

Fallon: Just trying to keep up with reality. 

Corden: Fleabag

O'Brien: All of the greatest comedy minds in the world are competing against a video of a cat falling into a toilet, and the cat is winning.

Minhaj: More relevant than ever. Political culture has become popular culture.

Bee: Well, the state of political satire is certainly robust. And it has taken on a new urgency, since we now live in a world where the president of the United States goes to Normandy for D-Day, white knuckles his way through a speech without attacking our closest allies, and it is somehow hailed in the news media as one of his BEST moments as president. Journalism alone cannot handle these absurdities. It's hard work making fun of the rogue planet as it hurtles toward us, but comedians are up for the challenge.

"I wish they'd retire the bit about ___"

Corden: Anything McRib related. 

O'Brien: Me one day retiring. 

Singh: Brown people becoming doctors and lawyers. It’s making my parents progressively more disappointed in me.

Bee: How Don Jr. is considering a run for NYC mayor. Not funny, guys! 

"The bluest I've ever gone is ___"

Fallon: Did I mention the perfect butthole sketch?

Corden: I host a show on CBS … so I think I might have said "boobs" once.

O'Brien: We had a recurring character in the '90s called "Camel Toe Annie." Don’t Google it.

"My best-ever audience was ___"

Fallon: The people of Puerto Rico. And the worst? The all-mime audience, hands down.

Corden: Although I love taping a talk show at 5 p.m. for tourists who couldn’t get tickets to Ellen, I do miss the thrill of performing on Broadway.

O'Brien: The crowd for any USO show stationed in the Middle East desperate for entertainment. For the first three minutes. Then when they realize I’m not Kid Rock, things get rough.

Singh: India. Anywhere in India. Also, they have vegetarian options at McDonald’s there. Everything is a win.

What's the funniest letter of the alphabet?

Fallon: It’s a tie! "N," "B" and "C" (I just made $50,000).

Corden: "P." The funniest words in the world to a 6-year-old all begin with "P." And I think that somehow becomes seared in your brain.

Singh: "X." My ex was also a joke.

Who is your comedy crush? 

Fallon: Lorne Michaels. 

Corden: Neal Brennan.

O'Brien: Myself circa 1998. I had legs for days and an ass that wouldn’t quit.

Singh: Tiffany Haddish. 

Minhaj: Kristen Wiig. 

"If I could invite three comedians, dead or alive, to a dinner party, it would be ___"

Corden: Chris Farley, Ronnie Barker and Billy Connolly.

Maher: Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock and Sarah Silverman. 

O'Brien: Alive.

Singh: Jim Carrey, Chelsea Handler, Russell Peters.

Minhaj: Richard Pryor, Dave Chappelle, Lenny Bruce.

Bee: The Golden Girls. That's four, but if we're already breaking the rules of nature, I'm breaking the rules of this dinner party.