How Late Night Comedy Shows Were The OG MrBeast

YouTubers didn't invent wacky stunts.
How Late Night Comedy Shows Were The OG MrBeast

Ultra-popular YouTuber MrBeast has become a social media superstar thanks to a dizzying array of attention-grabbing stunts, ranging from twirling a fidget spinner for 24 hours straight to counting up to 100,000 (it only took 44 hours). Hey, it’s a living. Wouldn’t you like to get paid for filling your buddy’s yard with 100 million Orbeez?

MrBeast is simply employing a technique that late-night comedy hosts have known for decades: Weird stunts equals beaucoup viewers. Here’s a sampling of late-night stunts throughout history that, intentionally or not, provided inspiration to the MrBeasts of the world. 

Steve Allen

All of the following comics, including MrBeast, owe a debt of gratitude to original Tonight Show host Steve Allen, the granddaddy of the weirdo comic stunt. From acting as a human hood ornament to taking a dive into a gigantic vat of cottage cheese, there was no stunt too gonzo for Allen to try.  David Letterman, in particular, was heavily influenced by Allen’s antics (see below). 

Want a bigger taste of Allen’s MrBeast skills?  Here’s the man a) getting slathered in peanut butter and then receiving a massive tongue bath from a pack of dogs and b) turning himself into a human kite. Fly, daddy-o, fly! 

Johnny Carson

Another MrBeast go-to move is putting greedy mopes in seemingly dangerous situations with actual beasts -- like a bathtub full of writhing snakes.  Or sharing a bed with a tarantula.  Or a padded room teeming with rats. You get the bit. 

Carson would have been all in.  Visits from animal freaks Joan Embery, Jim Fowler, and other lunatics from the San Diego Zoo were a show staple -- as was the implied (and possibly real) danger to Mr. Carson himself.  Here’s the King of Late Night mixing it up with a frisky monkey who just might tear his face off.  Anything for a laugh, we guess?  If you’re thinking about trying this at home, a pro tip: Don’t taunt apes with food.

David Letterman

Letterman was Steve Allen’s spiritual comedy ancestor, a lineage that goofy Dave was all too happy to acknowledge. "Steve Allen was an enormous influence on television," Dave says. "His early work is really the foundation for what late-night shows have become."   

That was especially true of Dave’s show.  Just like Allen immersed himself in Jell-O and cottage cheese (and like MrBeast swam in a pool full of Orbeez), early Letterman shows were chock-full of stunts like Dave being submerged into a water tank while wearing a suit made of Alka Seltzer.  

Hey MrBeast, Stupid Pet Tricks is a franchise just begging for a revival.

Conan O’Brien

A review of his most popular uploads reveals a staggering number of videos where MrBeast throws around stupid cash.  We’re talking viral hits like Press This Button to Win $100,000!, I Gave People $1,000,000 and Only One Minute to Spend It!, and I Ate A $70,000 Golden Pizza!  So many exclamation points!

Punctuation aside, the lesson is clear: People like to watch other people waste ludicrous wads of money. Cue Conan, who had a bone to pick with NBC, the network that was threatening to pull his show off the air.  So in his final week, O’Brien produced a series of comedy bits that, in his words, “aren’t so much funny as they are crazy expensive.”  Stick it to the man, Conan!  One night featured the host introducing his new ‘comedy character,’ the Bugatti Veyron Mouse.  In other words, the most expensive car in the world.  Dressed like a mouse. 

And what better way to introduce such a ‘hilarious' concept than by playing the original master to the Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction (and its crazy rights fees)? NBC’s total bill for the non-comedy bit: $1.5 million.  Sort of makes a $70,000 pizza look like a bargain.

Stephen Colbert

Nothing drives views like celebrity beef.  Remember that time MrBeast almost mixed it up with YouTube idiot Logan Paul? Er, make that quasi-professional boxer Logan Paul? No offense, MrBeast, but your ass would almost certainly have been grass.

Late-night feuds always drive ratings as well.  Letterman in particular had his share, getting into it with celebs ranging from Donald Trump to Cher to Jay Leno.  Of course, the squabbles don’t have to be real to garner attention -- or laughs.  Here’s Colbert finally having enough of supposed tough guy Bruce Willis.  Throw down, fellas!

James Corden

Except for Carson’s fisticuffs with the chimp (and, to be fair, the chimp was being held back by a chain), the late-night antics we’ve reviewed so far are more goofy than dangerous. But the anticipation of possible bodily harm is another driver of MrBeast views.  He regularly posts videos with topics like Most Dangerous Places on Earth!, World’s Most Dangerous Jobs!, and Food Theory: The Challenge That Nearly KILLED MrBeast! Once again, so many exclamation points!

And then there was the time he built the world’s most dangerous escape room, as designated by, we guess, MrBeast.

With that in mind, who wouldn’t want to put late-night host James Corden in harm’s way?  This summer, he did a “death-defying” stunt with Tom Cruise to promote the juggernaut Top Gun: Maverick.  The bit:  Corden would hop in a fighter plane with Cruise, who would recreate some of the film’s stomach-turning maneuvers.  Unless he’s a better actor than he showed in Cats, Corden was truly terrified.

In fact, Corden supposedly tried everything to get out of the segment, including a desperate email to his CBS bosses that said, in part:  “Guys, this is stupid. (Cruise) is an actor! He’s not a pilot. When you’re in a plane, and it’s just you and Tom Cruise, if something goes wrong you’re both dead.” 

What got Corden over his fear? A call from Cruise himself.  “He said, ‘James, listen. I would never, ever do anything that would put your life in danger.’”  (Which, incidentally, was exactly how Cruise proposed to Katie Holmes.)

Frankly, that wouldn’t have been enough to get us on the plane.  We know Tom Cruise is confident.  That isn’t the issue.  It’s the supersonic nose-dives over the unforgiving desert hellscape that would have been the problem.  But if you want to compete with the MrBeasts of the world, this is the game you gotta play. 

Spoiler alert: Corden survived. But not without calling the Top Gun star an “absolute bastard” (which, incidentally, was exactly how Katie Holmes broke it off with Cruise).

For more ComedyNerd, be sure to check out:

The Office: 15 Recent Revelations

The 50 Best Comedy Movies of the Past 50 Years: 30-21

Saturday Night Live; Our Dream Cast (Of People Who Were Fired)

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Top image: MrBeast/YouTube

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