Late Night’s Long, Painful Love Affair With Hot Ones

Grab a tall glass of milk, because Hot Ones is spicing up the Emmy race. The popular YouTube celebrity interview series, which is hosted by Sean Evans and produced by First We Feast, is set to compete in the Outstanding Talk Series category, facing off against late-night shows like Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Late Night With Seth Meyers

Previously, Hot Ones lived under the Daytime Emmy Awards. It was nominated for Outstanding Entertainment Talk Show in 2022; Evans was also nominated for Outstanding Entertainment Talk Show Host the year prior.

In a recent conversation with The Hollywood Reporter, Evans reflected on the significance of the category move. “I’m a traditionalist,” he said. “I grew up on Letterman and Conan and Jimmy and those kinds of shows. To compete against those institutions, I think would be the most important distinction we’ve ever had.”

Late-night TV and Hot Ones have a long, intertwined history together. Several late-night hosts have guested on the series over the years, and their memorable appearances have only increased the show’s popularity. In April, Conan O’Brien nearly broke the internet with that viral, ungodly clip of him chugging hot sauce and rubbing it into his skin as his soul seemingly left his body. 

Multiple SNL stars, including Michael Che, Pete Davidson, and Will Ferrell, have also sat down for some wings. Hot Ones is such a huge part of pop culture that SNL has even parodied the series twice, with Mikey Day playing Evans. “I think he got it right,” Evans said of Day’s impression of him.

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While they may be competing against each other now, Evans and the traditional late-night hosts also hold a deep mutual respect for one another. In 2021, Drew Barrymore passed along a complimentary message to Evans from his all-time favorite host, David Letterman. “[Letterman] said that what you’re doing is so unique and so rare and such a conceptual thing that people can get behind,” she told Evans. “He spoke very, very highly of it.”

Below, we look back on the late-night hosts’ Hot Ones appearances:

Conan O’Brien

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In one of the best—and most infamous—Hot Ones episodes to date, O’Brien took things to another level by bringing along his own “personal physician” to periodically monitor his temperature. In between downing hot sauce and screaming his head off, O’Brien reflected on writing SNL sketches at David Letterman’s desk back in the ‘90s and poked fun at the streaming service HBO Max rebranding to “Max.” The viral episode prompted an outpouring of love for the comedian: “Love that Hot Ones is teaching a new online generation that Conan O’Brien is in fact the most inherently funny person to ever live,” one Twitter/X user remarked.

John Oliver

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In February, the Last Week Tonight host was reduced to tears by the spiciness, calling Da Bomb Beyond Insanity sauce “an objectionable thing for humanity to do.” Between bites, he gushed about his love for the Muppets and looked back fondly on his days as a correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart—including the time he once broke his nose on the job. “It probably made me realize that I was in the right place to work,” he said of the incident. 

Seth Meyers

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In 2019, as he tried not to melt from the heat, Seth Meyers got candid about the highs and lows of his SNL career, that time Melissa McCarthy ordered 200 chicken wings to set, and the evolution of political comedy in the late-night sphere. “What’s interesting [is] the difference between [Hot Ones] and my show,” Meyers said. “It’s not that genuine things don’t happen on my show, but it’s obviously a performance of a conversation to some degree.” In June, Meyers and Evans reunited for a Hot Ones panel at The Paley Center for Media.

Jimmy Kimmel

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The talk show host took the heat like a champ, remarkably drinking no milk or water during the “torture session.” During this 2021 episode, Kimmel poked fun at Matt Damon, showed off his harmonica abilities, and reflected on the profound influence Letterman had on him. “I remember falling in love with [Late Night with David Letterman] and not mentioning it to anybody,” he told Evans. “The first person I mentioned the show to was my grandfather. … He said to me, ‘You ever see this guy Letterman?’ and I was like, ‘Yes, I love that guy!’”

Jimmy Fallon and Selena Gomez

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While Fallon has yet to be an official Hot Ones guest, Evans joined him—along with guest Selena Gomez—for a memorable, painful episode of The Tonight Show in 2019. After the segment, Gomez admitted that she threw up in her dressing room from the wings. The episode was also a significant moment in Hot Ones history, marking Evans’ late-night debut. Perhaps the killer in Only Murders in the Building Season 4 will turn out to be The Last Dab Xperience?

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