7 Storytelling Tricks to Steal From Late-Night Talk Show Convos
Start with a tease, and other ways to captivate an audience of 1 or 1,000
For me, the late-night talk show has always represented a shameless form of star worship. How could a serious consumer of culture enjoy it? The fake laughter. The manufactured drama. The over-the-top host. It all screams phony!
But recently I’ve reconsidered. Talk shows are one of the few remaining forms of oral storytelling consumed on a wide scale. Sure, they may be canned and corny, but they offer actionable lessons on how to create character, build anticipation, and empathize with an audience. These are techniques anyone who writes for a living, or just wants to improve their ability to tell a story, can benefit from.
I’ve compiled seven annoying-but-effective talk show tips for telling a story. These tips work across storytelling mediums — oral, writing, filmmaking. Below, I’ve listed each technique, provided a video of a celebrity using it, and broken down how you can put the technique into practice.
Make it relatable
Telling a good talk show story is like walking a tightrope between two points. On one end, we enjoy extravagant tales. Viewers tune in every week because celebrities fascinate us. Who doesn’t crave a peek into the lives of the rich and powerful?
On the other end, we need to relate to some part of the story. Celebrities enjoy luxuries alien to most of us. Think private catering. Mountains of fan mail. An army of personal assistants. A skilled storyteller must explain this lavish lifestyle in a way the average Joe or Jane can understand.
Take the clip above from Nirvana Drummer and Foo Fighters’ front man Dave Grohl. His story is ridiculous even by talk show standards. It’s about the time he jammed with Paul McCartney and Taylor Swift at a private party.