From Johnny Carson squirming while holding a giant snake, to the endearingly odd pet tricks that got regular play on The Late Show with David Letterman, animals have always had a place on late night television.
Jeff, the Border Collie, The Late Show with David Letterman
For the very first installment of “Stupid Pet Tricks” on David Letterman’s CBS program, Jeff—a very well trained border collie—catches a Frisbee while blindfolded. Quite honestly, it’s super impressive to see a dog keeping a blindfold on at all without trying to pull it off, so Jeff more than earns his place on this list.
Poncho the Singing Parrot, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Some of the best moments on Johnny Carson’s 30-year run of the Tonight Show came from his interactions with animals. “I didn’t want to do anything to disturb him because sometimes birds do get a little put off by applause or strange movements,” Carson says at the top of the segment, clearly unaware that he’s in the midst of a diva like Poncho the parrot. We’ve all heard parrots repeat words and phrases in that distinct audio-playback-like monotone, so it comes as a real surprise when this bird starts belting out the classics. After running through a quick vocal exercise, Poncho bursts into “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” with admirable vocal range and tremendous vaudevillian gusto.
This Adorable Baby Bear, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon
Not much to say about this, other than this bear is incredibly cute. The way this little guy paws the air makes me wish he had his own show, far away from the broad comedy stylings of his handler.
Baily Beagle, The Late Show with David Letterman
Another of Letterman’s “Stupid Pet Tricks,” this one is a classic. Playing dead is one of the oldest tricks in the dog-trick book—basically a slightly more dramatic variation of rolling over. Lying on the ground, the dog will turn its feet up in the air, or just collapse on command. Baily however, has a true flair for drama, so he collapses in his owner’s arms, putting his full weight into the performance with his head hanging down. Of course, Baily doesn’t perform for free, so he pops his head right back up for a treat. Letterman seems especially tickled by Baily—he lets out a hearty laugh before saying “that was great.” The audience seems to agree.
The Acro-Cats, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
Things here don’t go quite as planned, but what did you expect from a bunch of acrobatic cats? The Acro-Cats choose to instead perform on their own terms; scratching up carpet, lazing around, and only occasionally jumping through the requisite hoops. They’re artists.
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