Tom Snyder rates the competition -- The veteran late night host shares his thoughts on Letterman, Leno, and more

By Bruce Fretts
Updated March 18, 1994 at 05:00 AM EST

Tom Snyder knows late night. Before starting his CNBC gig a year ago, he hosted NBC’s post-Carson Tomorrow show from 1973 to ’82. Though he dismisses stories that he may headline a new CBS program that would air after Late Show as ”speculative journalism,” he agreed to analyze his younger colleagues:

David Letterman ”He has reinvented himself. He had the reputation, earned or unearned, of being mean-spirited on the old show. Now he is at ease with himself. Whatever demons he had at NBC have vanished, and he is totally in command. He displays a confidence on TV that I find awesome.”

Jay Leno ”He got off to a shaky start. Now he’s developing more confidence. He’s still a bit unsure of himself in interview situations. It’s as if he’s really not listening to what people are saying but rather hoping to get to the next question and not have any dead air.”

Ted Koppel ”Ted is at the very top of journalism on TV. Many nights, I will skip Leno and Letterman and tune him in. He can move from (reporting on) Bosnia to honoring Johnny Carson at the Kennedy Center with great ease.”

Conan O’Brien ”To tell you the God’s honest truth, I don’t watch him that often, because he comes on at 12:35, and that’s past my bedtime most nights.”

Greg Kinnear ”His first effort (on Later) was very, very good. But let’s face it — this show goes on at 1:35 a.m. That’s a tough, tough hour. The Tomorrow show played well in dormitories, in prisons, in restaurants that were open late at night. And that audience, I’m sure, will continue to be in place for the Kinnear show.”

Arsenio Hall ”I don’t watch him. This says nothing about his qualities, but his program is not for me. I’m not hip enough. I don’t get it.”