Why CNN’s Don Lemon Loves Late Night, And His Big-Name Competition

By Mark Joyella 

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CNN’s Don Lemon, if he could, would make late-night news a lot more conversational.

“I would like it to be a little bit looser. I would love it to be like HBO. I would love to be able to say those things you never say on basic cable. I would love to be able to have those conversations the way Bill Maher does,” Lemon tells Variety.

“Yes, we get more relaxed the later it is. Because you kind of get the feeling that the kids are in bed. You can have conversations that you could not have at 8 or 7, or what have you … after 11, primetime is over. You’re going into nighttime.”

Lemon has been joined in the 11 p.m. ET hour by live competition from Brian Williams on MSNBC, which Lemon considers a compliment. “I do think it’s a counter move, and I’m kind of flattered by it. They rolled out the big guns to go up against little old Don Lemon,” he said.

“I think everyone has seen that you can do news a little bit later than everybody has been doing it live, and there is an audience for it,” Lemon’s executive producer, Jonathan Wald, told Variety.