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Late-night hosts’ jokes are going viral on Web

Long secluded in the wee hours of the night, these funnymen are now, with the help of a click or two, finding laughs in the waking hours.
/ Source: The Associated Press

You don’t have to stay up past midnight to enjoy your late-night shows.

Material from David Letterman, Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel and Conan O’Brien is increasingly turning into viral video on the Web. Long secluded in the wee hours of the night, these funnymen are now, with the help of a click or two, finding laughs in the waking hours.

They’re often a hit, too, and none more so than Kimmel has been recently.

After ABC’s lengthy Academy Awards broadcast on Sunday, you’d have to be a TV watcher of considerable endurance to stick around for “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” But even if you didn’t, you may have by now seen the high point of Kimmel’s show.

First, some background. Kimmel has made it a nightly trademark to end by apologizing to Matt Damon for not having enough time to get him on the show. The joke, of course, is that such a star would never be bumped.

The bit took a turn on his fifth-anniversary show on Jan. 31, when a video was aired by Kimmel’s long-term girlfriend, comedian Sarah Silverman. In it, Silverman sang along with Damon bragging that the two were sleeping together (though it was described in much funnier and more vulgar language, which was bleeped out).

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More than eight million have watched the video on YouTube. It’s also available on ABC.com.

On the post-Oscars show, Kimmel got his payback. In a similar song, he boasted that he was sleeping with Damon’s good friend, Ben Affleck. The production was ratcheted up a notch and was styled like a “We Are the World” tribute. Guests included Brad Pitt, Harrison Ford, Robin Williams, Cameron Diaz, Don Cheadle and many more.

As of Thursday, more than 2 1/2 million had watched the video on YouTube.

Touting hosts onlineKimmel is far from the only late-night host to find viral success online. CBS was the first network to aggressively tout its late night comedians — Letterman and Craig Ferguson — on YouTube.

Perhaps Letterman’s finest Web clip was his interview of Paris Hilton soon after she had been jailed for two weeks for alcohol-related reckless driving. On YouTube, more than six million watched Letterman repeatedly pepper her about her experience in jail while the hotel heiress squirmed.

NBC, which is owned by General Electric Co., doesn’t allow its material to be posted on YouTube and figures aren’t available for videos on the network’s site: NBC.com. (Clips and full episodes of many of NBC’s shows can also be streamed at Hulu.com, a video site co-created with News Corp.)

(Msnbc.com is a joint venture between Microsoft and NBC Universal.)

Wherever they saw it, in early February, many sought out NBC’s “Late Night” footage of O’Brien mock fighting “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart and “The Colbert Report” host Stephen Colbert.

Comedy Central, which is owned by Viacom, also posts its own videos, which had previously been enormously popular on YouTube. Now, “Daily Show” clips are on www.thedailyshow.com, while “The Report” can be found through www.comedycentral.com.

Altogether, these late-night hosts, coupled with “Saturday Night Live,” have been a tremendous force online, where their comedic talents easily outshine more amateur material. Amazingly, the decades-old late-night format has proven adaptable yet again, even through the Internet “revolution.”