The Five Best Talk-Show Guests, Ranked

The new Tom Hanks movie Larry Crowne was a bland bomb, but that's okay: He did publicity for it, and that means showing up on (just about any and all) talk shows as a guest.

What makes a good talk-show guest? Someone who understands the dynamic -- you're not having anything close to a real conversation, so have two or three good anecdotes and get off the stage. Two other factors:

1) Be game for prepared bits;

and 2) Don't appear with Jay Leno. Even the best guests wilt under the baffling power of his ineptitude as a host.

Hanks is one of the top five talk-show guests on the circuit right now, but is he number one? Let's see:

5. Nathan Lane
You don't know Broadway, so you don't know Nathan Lane, except for Mouse Hunt or some other bad movie. But David Letterman has called him one of his consistently best guests, and again, it comes down to understanding his role.

And he's always up for a song:

Steve Sirkis & Nathan Lane Brokeback parody on Letterman! from Steve Sirkis on Vimeo.

4. Peter O'Toole
The tradition of the grand British theater anecdote is slowly fading away as the masters of the art die off. There are no more Richard Burtons or Alec Guinnesses to tell long, involved, name-dropping tales that inevitably involve copious amounts of liquor. But we still have Peter O'Toole, who brings the added value of never quite knowing if he's all there at the moment, or if that pause is just momentary.

3. Matt Damon
Always charming, Matt Damon seems to get as much of a kick out of his prepared anecdotes as the audience.

And of course, there are these two things:


...both of which were first-round Hall of Talk-Show Guest Fame inductees.

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Dennis Leary has been terrific on TDS.


What about Crisper Glover or Harmony Korine?And how could I forget about Frank Zappa.

magic's johnson
magic's johnson

if we're sticking with the last decade or two:

• Charles Grodin –  funny, smart and acts like an ass• Robin Williams – yes, an over-the-top parody of himself, but it's something to witness• Dana Carvey – the slightly edgier alternative to Martin Short, sans singing• Alec Baldwin – yeah. we're tired of him, and his best spot is on SNL, but a great talk-show guest back in the day• Brother Theodore – Lettterman, early-to-mid 90s

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