'Last Call's' Carson Daly enjoys being 'down and dirty'

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carson-daly-gi.jpg Carson Daly is the first to acknowledge he has "weathered a few storms" in keeping his "Last Call" going.

The host of NBC's "The Voice" (and one-time ringmaster of MTV's "TRL") has changed his own late-late-night NBC show significantly over its 11 seasons. Now done as "guerrilla television" from a different site every night, it features chats with entertainers and politicians, and -- of great importance to Daly, also a weekday-morning Los Angeles radio personality -- performances by music acts that haven't had much TV exposure, as with Maroon 5 and Ray LaMontagne in their early days.

"After two guys in suits telling monologue jokes, by the time it gets to me, I'm just not that guy," Daly tells Zap2it. "I'm inspired by Charlie Rose, Tavis Smiley, Bob Costas and Greg Kinnear when he did 'Later.' This is the most liberating thing that's ever happened to me. I want to do the show I want to do, and only through that have we really found a niche audience.

"We've repurposed the show to cable on Fuse [episodes run a day after their NBC airing], which is money in NBC's pocket," Daly adds, "and we're talking about other properties now. The show is shot for a fraction of the food budget of most of the other late-night guys, and I change in the back of my car like a weather person in a tertiary market. It's crazy, and it's down and dirty, but the ratings are up 20 percent year-to-date."

Even with that, "Last Call With Carson Daly" has traveled a challenging road, perhaps never so much as during the NBC late-night fracas that ended in returning stewardship of "The Tonight Show" to Jay Leno from Conan O'Brien, who then relocated to TBS. Had the outcome been different, "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" and "Last Call" might have been moved to even later slots ... or "Last Call" could have been gone all together.

"Once Fallon got 12:35 a.m., the writing was on the wall for where I stood," Daly says, "and I was very happy just to still be part of the late-night lineup. There was about a one-week period where I didn't know what was going to happen, but there was nothing I could do about it, and it all played out."

Daly's career keeps playing out in other ways, too. He'll help preside over the lighting of the National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C., on Thursday (Dec. 1); he'll guide the eighth annual edition of "NBC's New Year's Eve With Carson Daly"; and he'll be back as host when NBC launches the sophomore season of the singing competition "The Voice" in the coveted post-Super Bowl slot Sunday, Feb. 5.

"It's hard to be popular and cool at the same time," reasons Daly, who now marks the holidays as the father of a 2-year-old son. "I think maybe for a while, I worried too much about being popular and doing what you're supposed to do. While everybody else is fighting for the A-list acts, there's a lot of great emerging talent out there that needs a spotlight."
Photo/Video credit: Getty Images