This Saturday marks the 10th anniversary of the death of Tom Snyder, one of the most idiosyncratic hosts in the history of late-night television. On NBC’s The Tomorrow Show in the ’70s and early ’80s, and then CBS’s original Late Late Show in the ’90s, Snyder was known for long-form celebrity interviews that influenced the podcast format, going beyond the normal “promotional plug and silly anecdote” format of most late-night talk shows for something realer, deeper, and often stranger.
But the thing I remember about Snyder has nothing to do with Tomorrow or The Late Late Show. Instead, the Snyder interview I’ve never stopped thinking about occurred when he guest-hosted Later With Bob Costas in 1991. The guest was Howard Stern, a man Snyder clearly despised. And Stern hated Snyder with equal passion.
What subsequently transpired between these two men is the most contentious interview in late-night TV history.
At least that’s how I remembered it. I caught a rerun of the Later episode when I was in middle school, and it blew my mind. And then I never saw it again for many years. But apparently it made an impression on other viewers, as the interview now lives forever on YouTube and even earned a lengthy mention on the Wikipedia page for Later.
Perhaps the power of this interview has been dulled a bit, given that this country is currently run by lunatics who hate each other and talk about it openly on television all day long. But in 1991, it was rare to see adults have a conversation and not try to hide their mutual loathing. I’d argue that it’s still a rarity in modern late-night TV, in which the interview segments are almost always the least interesting part of any show.
So, in honor of Tom Snyder, let’s revisit one of the best worst interviews of his career.
:25: In the YouTube clip, the interview is prefaced by a commercial for something called Ceasars Bay Bazaar, which apparently was a shopping center located in Brooklyn. It has nothing to do with Tom Snyder or Howard Stern, but it’s worth noting that in 1991 the whole world looked like a Tim and Eric sketch.
Things only get more bizarre from here.
1:38: There is no build-up to the hostility between Snyder and Stern — it’s there from the beginning, for reasons that aren’t immediately clear.
“Are we gonna work out this thing between us” Howard asks, cryptically.
“There’s nothing between us, pal,” Tom retorts. “We do this half-hour and we never see each other again.”
Well, okay then.