The 10 Most Influential Talk Show Hosts

The history of the talk show is as old as television itself. Night time talk shows have run the gamut from family television to R rated comedy acts. Once thought of as entertainment for housewives, daytime talk shows are spreading viewership to college students, men, and senior citizens. The question of which talk show host is the most influential emerges.

We are inundated by choices of individuals or panels of hosts to view on a daily basis on almost every basic channel as well as on cable and public broadcasting channels. Whether we realize it or not, these hosts influence a variety of things in our everyday lives. They influence what we watch, who we talk about, and the entertainment we choose to partake in. Politics, brands, health fads, and musicians are all presented to us on talk shows.

Whether we are learning about newsworthy topics or watching plugs for new movies, talk shows are primarily responsible for introducing these topics through the medium of television. In addition, talk shows often present every day people with common issues, sometimes with a panel of professionals, in an effort to provide help, give advice, or teach coping strategies to a targeted group of viewers on a larger scale.

In regards to each of the following talk show hosts, multiple factors were taken into consideration. These include longevity in the business, the content of their shows and interviews, the intended audiences, and viewership. The hosts included in this list span decades and genres. They span various age groups, genders, races, sexual orientations, education levels, and political belief systems. These hosts are a diverse group, but are definitively the most influential.


10 Regis Philbin

Regis has been in the talk show business for over fifty years. There is no one else who is quite as comfortable with a microphone in hand, nor with such a readily recognized public persona. Regis is straightforwardly and unapologetically himself, from his ever ready wit to his Bronx, New York accent. He has earned multiple Emmy Awards, as well as the Walter Camp Distinguished American Award, which is presented to leaders and innovators. Regis makes personal visits and donations to his alma mater, Cardinal Hayes High School, a Catholic school located in the Bronx.

9 Conan O'Brien


Q Scores reports that Conan O'Brien is known to 74% of Americans. He has been a talk show host, comedian, musician, and writer for several television shows, including The Simpsons and Saturday Night Live. Conan has appeared in many movies and television shows as himself. O'Brien has also been involved in advertising for large scale companies such as American Express and Bud Light, often in prime commercial time slots. Conan is possibly best known for leading his viewers from NBC to his new talk show on TBS following a 2010 conflict over his hosting of The Tonight Show.

8 Ed Sullivan

Ed Sullivan is responsible for making some of the world's biggest musical acts into American household names. His show was a launching pad for several musical artists such as Elvis Presley, The Doors, Bob Dylan, The Supremes, and The Beatles. Although oftentimes these debuts were highly controversial, they are still some of the most memorable ever to be seen on television. Sullivan's show will always be remembered for the new musical talent that premiered weekly. Without The Ed Sullivan Show, we cannot know how or when musical acts would have become so readily and widely available to the public.

7 Dr. Phil McGraw


Dr. Phil originally got his start as a consultant for Oprah. Now famous in his own right, he has authored numerous self help books and hosts his own popular talk show. Dr. Phil covers everything from high profile news and crime related stories to everyday issues that families or individuals face. Through his own fame, McGraw has also been responsible for the launch of his wife Robin's skin care line, and charities, as well as the popularity of a cell phone application co-created with his son Jay that allows people to ask questions of doctors.

6 Dr. Mehmet Oz

Dr. Oz is well-known for his daily show that teaches America about health issues and good choices through the use of games, diagrams, and audience participation. The recipient of Emmy Awards and the author or coauthor of several hundred books, Dr. Oz is perhaps even busier than some of his viewers realize. He is actively involved as a surgical professor at Columbia University, as well as a surgeon on staff at New York Presbyterian Hospital. Dr. Oz is also an active member of every professional organization for heart surgeons. We can thank Dr. Oz for helping America get healthy.

5 Ellen Degeneres


Ellen has over 3.5 million daily viewers of her television show. With that kind of following, she is bound to be influential. Ellen balances celebrity guests with daily viral videos and showcasing regular people and their talents. She has hosted awards shows, and on a daily basis reminds her viewers to take time to enjoy the little things, like dancing, Most importantly, Ellen helps those in need and supports equal rights for all.

4 Oprah Winfrey

There is no doubt that Oprah is wildly successful both as a past talk show host and the namesake and inspiration of The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). While she may be remembered for her giveaway shows and iconic interviews of celebrities, Oprah empowers women, starting with her school for girls in Africa. Oprah is an influence politically, in entertainment (think big names like Nate Berkus and Dr. Phil), and also has the ability to promote names, brands, and news stories.


3 Larry King


Larry King is influential in both politics and entertainment. He has been in the business for over half a century. In fact, King was awarded a lifetime achievement award for having the longest running talk show with the same host. Perhaps best known for his ever present suspenders and dry sense of humor, King has interviewed some of the most newsworthy individuals. Over the years, in fact, Larry King has astonishingly amassed over 50,000 interviews with celebrities, politicians, and athletes. King has interviewed every president.

2 Charlie Rose

Charlie Rose is hard working and well connected in the worlds of politics, business, and finance. This may be due to the fact that he contacts his own guests to appear on his talk show. Rose is known for addressing the hot topics of the day and questioning everything, while calmly presenting all sides of a story. In his quest for truth on his show, which airs on PBS, Charlie Rose has interviewed everyone from politicians and financiers to Nobel laureates.

1 Ricki Lake


While Ricki Lake hosted her own talk show in the 1990's, she became more influential after turning in the microphone and making a documentary. Inspired by her own journey in pregnancy, labor, and delivery while trying to educate herself, Ricki decided to show American women that they had choices in medical care during pregnancy and childbirth. She caused many women to begin to question the medical necessities of commonly accepted practices. In her documentary The Business of Being Born, Lake introduced Ina May Gaskin and The Farm to a new generation, and gave women the courage to take control of their pregnancies.


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