The Television Host I Admire The Most
This may surprise you, but the television host I admire the most is American Idol’s Ryan Seacrest.
Seacrest may be the single most agile host of the television era. Don’t laugh. If that statement seems hyperbolic, keep in mind that the most famous television emcee of the 20th Century—Dick Clark—personally handpicked Seacrest to be his successor.
Even if you loathe American Idol—or if music reality television isn’t your thing—I encourage you to tune in when its new season debuts tonight. Watch it as a dispassionate analyst. Dissect what makes Seacrest so good at his job. Look at the mechanics that make him effective in his role. Then, apply those same traits to the next event at which you’ll serve as the host or emcee.
In this post, I’ll identify six traits that make Ryan Seacrest the best in the business.
1. He Makes a Hard Job Look Easy
Don’t let him fool you—hosting a show with so many moving parts isn’t easy. Seacrest has to listen to producers talking into his ear; forge a connection with contestants and television viewers; read copy; hit his mark; know which camera is live; contend with the ego of the judges, who jockey for “talk time”; pay enough attention to be able to ad lib; and go with the flow while managing the clock.
2. He’s Totally In The Moment
Contestants say weird things. Audience members shout out at inopportune moments. Technical glitches cause tape not to roll or audio to fail. Judges bicker. Bottom line, things go wrong in live television. And Seacrest rolls with those unexpected moments with the grace of an unflappable pro. If anything, he appears amused when those moments occur, giving viewers a sense that he has the whole operation under control. In that way he’s similar to Johnny Carson, who earned his biggest laughs after his worst jokes bombed.
3. He’s a Great Ad-Libber
Thinking of witty impromptu remarks isn’t easy under normal circumstances—but doing it with dozens of moving pieces all around you is even harder. Even though Seacrest is constantly surrounded by distractions and needs to always be thinking ahead, he listens carefully to what people are saying to him right now, which allows him to form an instant response. Think that’s easy? Jimmy Fallon and legendary television host Dick Cavett say that’s one of the most difficult things to do as a host.
4. He’s Knows It’s Not About Him
As mentioned in the video above, Seacrest doesn’t come off as egocentric. Instead, he uses his talent to bring out the best in the people around him and set them up to have their moment. Great hosts know that their job is to make others look good and their audiences feel comfortable—and then get out of the way. Seacrest does all three perfectly.
5. He Treats People Well
Seacrest is funny but never jokes at the contestants’ expense. He appears genuinely empathetic when bad things happen to people (a contestant gets a scathing review from the judges, for example), and excited when good things happen for them. Those traits make others feel comfortable around him—and that trust between him and the contestants, judges, and celebrity guests results in more revealing interviews.
As an example, here’s a video of him with a contestant from last season named Charlie Askew. Askew had just received savage criticism—and as you’ll see in the video, he didn’t handle it well. But instead of making a deeply uncomfortable moment even more awkward, Seacrest rescued the moment.
6. He Always Looks Like He’s Having Fun
Seacrest has hosted hundreds of episodes of American Idol. He must have a bad day once in a while, but he never lets it show. If he’s ever self-aware that a show is going off the rails, he doesn’t show it; he stays in the moment and tries to make it better. The highest praise I can offer to anyone—and that Seacrest has earned—is this: He’s a total professional.
Note: Although season 13 debuts tonight, you’ll see more of Seacrest’s emceeing chops when the unedited live shows begin next month. | Ryan Seacrest Photo credit: Jyle Dupuis
Who is your favorite television host, past or present? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
YES! I stopped watching the show a few years ago but Seacrest always impressed me for all of the reasons you cite above. I think his super power is his empathy. You feel as though he’s always on everyone else’s side. And you’re right: he makes it look easy.
Brad, it was smart and brave of you to name him; I suspect some people will dismiss this as a “lightweight” choice. But there’s nothing lightweight about the kind of work that Seacreast does, even for people who have no interest in watching him. He is a professional to the nth degree.
Thank you very much for your comment, and for your support of my choice!
I was concerned about the perception of my post appearing “lightweight” and read it numerous times to make sure I was comfortable with the post. For the reasons you identified, I was. I’m well aware that American Idol isn’t exactly hip or edgy – but what I’m interested in are the techniques and mechanics of hosting. I’ve yet to find anyone who’s as good as he is.
I revered Johnny Carson as well, and paused before naming Seacrest as my favorite. But Carson always had a reserve about him – perhaps due to the era and his Midwestern upbringing – and lacked some of the empathy you mentioned about Seacrest. As for today’s late-night talk show hosts, I’m very impressed with Jimmy Fallon. He’ll do a bang-up job on The Tonight Show.
Thanks for commenting!
I totally agree with you. It always makes me wonder how Carson Daly keeps his job.