14 Best Late Night TV Moments of the Year

From Conan’s untimely Tonight Show exit to Leno’s reinstatement to Letterman’s take on the shake up, late night TV made many 2010 morning headlines. See the top moments, complete with Chelsea Handler, Jon Stewart, and more!

12.29.10 10:38 PM ET

“The Sometime at Night Show With Some White Guy”

Just days before Conan O’Brien’s exit from NBC (on account of the network’s plans to bump prior host Jay Leno back to The Tonight Show after abysmal ratings for his own show), Coco—as Tom Hanks famously dubbed him—quipped about his unsure late night fate. In the end, the joke hit a nerve when America’s favorite redhead got the axe after only a brief reign as the king of late night.

Letterman: Carson Only Quit Once

David Letterman takes no prisoners, so CBS’ Late Night host naturally wasn’t shy about taking Conan O’Brien’s side during the NBC late night debacle. Letterman didn’t mince words discussing the “arctic chill” between Leno and O’Brien, as well as his longing for The Tonight Show’s days of Johnny Carson. As it turned out, NBC was so unnerved by Letterman’s departure in 1993 after his decade-long run that the network didn’t want to get rid of Leno to avoid creating more bad blood. That worked out well.

Jay Leno Says Goodbye…Sort Of

After a five-month stint hosting his own show The Jay Leno Show, the NBC host said goodbye to the 10 p.m. time slot, likening his job to prison: the “sentence was reduced for good behavior.” While Leno allegedly never contacted Conan about the late night shake up, he said on his show that the debacle wasn’t O’Brien’s fault and that they both “ got screwed” by NBC. But let’s look at who still has a show with the network, shall we?

Heeeere’s Conan (Again)

Though O’Brien’s departure from his “ dream job” at NBC was noticeably upsetting, he came back, better than ever, on basic cable. Team Coco was relieved when O’Brien announced that he would return to late night with a new show on TBS $40 million in hush money and one furry, fiery beard later, O’Brien made his triumphant return in November. What helped him get through those tough TV show-less times? His guardian angel Larry King, of course.

Nicolas Cage: Shroomer?

Somehow, the late night show hosts and guests managed to talk about topics other than the Leno-Conan feud—like doing drugs with your pet, for example. When Nicolas Cage visited Letterman in July, the unhinged actor spoke about how he used to get high with a little help from his furry friend. Cage said he and his cat, Lewis, would let loose with mushrooms and then have epically long staring contests in his bedroom. Though the actor said he doesn’t take such psychedelic trips anymore, later in life, an allegedly drug-less Cage said Lewis said “Hi” (or was it “high”?) to him.

Jimmy Fallon Does 'Double Rainbow' as Neil Young

What could be better than Neil Young singing a song about the Double Rainbow viral video? Jimmy, the former Saturday Night Live star and the newest NBC late night addition, is famous for his impressions. When he donned a wig and picked up a guitar to croon (in the style of Young’s voice) a wistful tune about the marvel of spotting an elusive double rainbow (all the way) on Late Night, viewers were laughing at the notion once again.

Diane Sawyer: Every Sperm Donor’s Fantasy?

Diane Sawyer’s name is generally associated with hard-hitting news; that is, until late night ABC host Jimmy Kimmel bridged a new topic—masturbation. During an interview in September, the late night host told Sawyer that in the movie The Switch, actors Jason Bateman deposits his sample, if you will, to a magazine cover featuring her photo. Sawyer responded gracefully with “a laugh is a laugh.”

Colbert’s Rally to Keep Fear Alive

Stephen Colbert’s interpretation of the word “meme” (which means a viral Internet sensation) as “me, me” was the inspiration for the Comedy Central host’s rally to maintain the level of fear in the U.S. The event turned into a massive gathering with hundreds of thousands of people on the mall in Washington, D.C.—and one worthy of a celebration from a flock of geese.

Jon Stewart Addresses “Hurty Sanchez”

Never one to shy away from addressing a media controversy, The Daily Show host Jon Stewart asked his audience to take a meditative moment when CNN correspondent Rick Sanchez was fired for making anti-Semitic comments on a satellite radio show. While Stewart wasn’t a fan of “Hurty’s” show, he quipped that he’s “not even sure” that Sanchez believes his own statements.

“Bed Intruder” Star Intrudes Lopez Tonight

If someone could write the manual for becoming a viral video star, it’s Antoine Dodson. The man famous for warning evening news viewers to hide their kids, their wives, and their husbands in the “Bed Intruder” video made an endearing appearance on George Lopez’s TBS show to discuss his unlikely road to Internet fame. It wouldn’t be Dodson’s last appearance on Lopez—he returned to sing a reworked version of the song his news stint inspired for the holidays. So Santa Claus can run and tell that, ho-ho-homeboy.

What Does Christine O’Donnell Look for in a Man?

From witchcraft to anti-masturbation commercials, 2010 Delaware Senate hopeful Christine O’Donnell captivated the nation during the mid-term election. On The Tonight Show, O’Donnell made light of her extreme stance against masturbation with Leno and discussed what she looks for in a man.

Conan Fancies Himself a Pair of Jeggings

The upside of Conan O’Brien’s gangly frame is that his long legs are perfect for jeggings— leggings that look like jeans. Coco donned a pair after talking to Project Runway czar Tim Gunn about the popular women’s clothing trend and proceeded to wear them throughout his entire monologue, despite the distraction. O’Brien seemed to enjoy the tight-fitting experience, tweeting, “I’m never taking them off. You can pry them from my cold, Irish legs. #jeggings”

Stewart Doesn’t Cut the President Slack

Who you callin’ “timid,” Jon Stewart? The Daily Show host and inciter of sanity was a straight shooter when it came time for him to interview President Obama. Stewart wasn’t afraid to ask tough questions or call out the president when he saw fit, prompting him to threaten to “lump” him with other pundits. Restoring reason is not as easy as it may sound.

Diddy Gets Dirty for Chelsea

Neither the artist currently known as Diddy nor E! host Chelsea Handler is a paradigm of classy behavior, so it should have been expected that the music mogul would show up late (and seemingly drunk) for his appearance on Chelsea Lately. Diddy expressed his excitement to meet Handler with a slight slur, prompting late night’s only female host to offer this riled response: “I’ve been waiting for you for a f---ing hour.”