It’s hard to watch late-night television. I mean, it’s on late—it’s right there in the name! Besides that, sometimes you’re too busy watching The Umbrella Academy or High Maintenance or doing mindfulness exercises at a soundbath or in a real bath. Whatever the reason you don’t watch late-night television on TV, you probably watch the clips on YouTube.
YouTube has made it not only possible but super easy for people to catch up on late night without actually staying up late. It’s also easy to share the best late-night moments on Twitter or Slack or even text the really good ones to your parents. It’s become the way that most of us stay up-to-date on the late-night shenanigans, be they lip sync battles, alphabet aerobics, or songs performed on classroom instruments—and that’s why it’s become such an important tool for the shows and their hosts.
When Jimmy Fallon was set to return to late night, as the host of Late Night, he gave his schtick a test run by producing a series of webisodes, which at the time (2008) was a revolutionary concept. When he headed to The Tonight Show, Fallon and his team made sure clips were always shared online and special content was created just for YouTube viewers—and there were a lot of YouTube viewers.
The Tonight Show has 204 videos that have racked up at least 10 million views and another 1,855 videos have been watched at least 1 million times. (The Wheel of Musical Impressions with Ariana Grande has a whopping 127 million views on its own.) By comparison, James Corden’s Late Late Show has just 97 videos with 10 million or more views, and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert has just 6.
Currently, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon boasts the most subscribers of any late-night channel on YouTube, as well as being the most-viewed late-night channel on the site. Fallon likes to celebrate the milestones in subscription numbers—when he hit 3 million subscribers, he serenaded his followers. At 10 million subscribers, he dorked out with the 10M subscriber Diamond button. Sometime last night, Fallon hit a new threshold: 20 million subscribers.
“YouTube has helped to redefine the way people watch late-night TV, and they’ve been supporting us since day one,” Fallon says via email. “With YouTube, we’ve been able to reach a whole new global audience, and people are seeing The Tonight Show in places I never would’ve imagined.”
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated views for The Late Show, which has 6 videos with more than 10 million views.