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‘Late Night”s comedic legacy of the strange and askew

It’s the witching hour of comedy. Oddball characters, surreal skits and awkward celebrity interviews have come to define the “Late Night” franchise on NBC that begins after midnight. Created when the “Tonight Show” was cut back from 90 to 60 minutes and originally produced by Johnny Carson’s production company, the “Late Night” show aimed to engage what the network considered an untapped demographic.

“The late night host was called upon to tap into a younger sensibility,” said Ron Simon, a curator at The Paley Center for the Media in New York City and a television scholar. “Especially a male sensibility.”

Changeovers at “Late Night” have been infrequent, with just three hosts having led the franchise since it was created in 1982. Seth Meyers, the former head writer of “Saturday Night Live,” takes over as host on Feb. 24, with Lorne Michaels as producer.

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