5. Hal Sparks
Tenure: 1999 to 2000
Sparks was like your adorable younger brother who thinks everything is funny and likes to joke about his lack of prowess with the ladies and is just so adorable. But that cuddly geek thing also kept Sparks from deploying the kind of sharp-edged snark required for the likes of Maury and Jerry Springer, and he decamped after just a year to star on Showtime’s Queer As Folk.
Still: So cute!
4. Aisha Tyler
Tenure: 2001 to 2002
Beyond the fact that it was refreshing to know that making fun of talk shows wasn’t the sole province of white men, Tyler was the first (and, really, only) host who seemed to genuinely enjoy watching trashy talk TV. But the show’s format was growing as tired as its ’90s design aesthetic, and by the early ’00s, trashy talk TV was on the decline in favor of trashy reality TV. None of which was Tyler’s fault, but her tenure on the show suffered for it all the same. In 2002, after 11 years on the air, E! essentially canceled the show.
3. John Henson
Tenure: 1995 to 1999
He’s the Roger Moore of Talk Soup hosts — not the first, most famous, or respected of his compatriots, but the one many people probably remember first seeing host the show. He also benefitted enormously from the rise of both Jerry Springer and Rosie O’Donnell as talk show celebrities, both of whom provided hours upon hours of prime content. And there was that time when Dustin Hoffman defibrillated his balls.
2. Greg Kinnear
Tenure: 1991 to 1995
Well before anyone was using the word “snark,” Kinnear’s perfect mix of aloof charm and arched sarcasm pretty much invented what has become for over two decades the prevailing attitude towards a certain brand of so-bad-it’s-good TV. Most know him now as an actor (and an Oscar nominee, at that), but without Kinnear setting the gold standard, Talk Soup and shows like it simply would not exist.
1. Joel McHale
Tenure: 2004 to the present
It’s almost unfair to judge McHale against Talk Soup’s four other hosts, since for nine years (!) the Community star has been hosting a vastly improved version of the original show, resurrected in 2004 and rechristened The Soup with mandate to cover pretty much all of TV. But really, McHale has managed to synthesize all the best qualities of his predecessors: Kinnear’s charm, Henson’s snideness, Tyler’s enthusiasm, and Sparks’ adorableness. He is the Ultimate Host, and nothing will stop him. In 100 years, he will still be making jokes about Kim Kardashian’s great-great-great granddaughter/alien hybrid, and it will be glorious.
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