After four seasons and 600 episodes of topical, fast-paced humor, Comedy Central’s social media-infused panel show @midnight is coming to an end tonight. Whether you’re a hardcore fan, an occasional viewer, or a greenhorn whose first exposure was hearing the news, the loss of the Chris Hardwick-hosted faux game show is significant. Nothing else on television today has done as much to showcase the humor and improvisational abilities of stand-up comics and comedic actors. In fact, nothing else in the modern peak TV era has replicated what The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson did for comedy.
Comedians with little to no fame sometimes found success following a chance appearance on Carson’s Tonight Show, a career lineage that sometimes still occurs thanks to modern late-night shows. “That’s great,” you’re probably thinking, “but how does a shuttered panel show’s comedy output compare to Carson’s rich stand-up history?” It’s a fair question, especially since @midnight never featured anyone of Roseanne Barr or Jerry Seinfeld’s stature, but that’s the point. They never would have garnered such fame if it weren’t for their Tonight Show stand-up performances. Likewise, many of today’s greatest, funniest comics owe their success to @midnight and its closest relative, Chelsea Lately.