Most popular TV hosts of all time

Published 3:00 pm Thursday, May 26, 2022

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Most popular TV hosts of all time

You won’t find him on very many lists—not even this one—but one of America’s first long-running TV show hosts was John Charles Daly. From 1950 until 1967, Daly was the host of a panel show called “What’s My Line?” that had contestants fielding questions from celebrities of that period in order to guess what the contestants’ line of work happened to be—thus the show’s title. Daly’s was a familiar name to American households—as a CBS radio network correspondent in the 1930s and 1940s, he was the first national reporter to cover the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and the first wire service correspondent to announce the sudden death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt on April 12, 1945.

Daly’s success on the game show circuit—which also included credits like “Celebrity Time” and “Who Said That?”—was in part due to a sense of trust he’d earned for his previous career as a news correspondent. It is a particularly American sensibility that even the entertainers we bring into our homes on a weekly or nightly basis forge a foundation of trust with the people, and Daly was an early example of just that kind of relationship.

TV show hosts have the unique ability to speak directly to audience members without the facade of a script or character. They become trustworthy and comforting figures in the homes of millions, whether they’re providing the day’s news or just telling jokes. These TV hosts can be as familiar and recognizable as any family member, but who throughout television history has stood out among all the rest?

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Stacker took a look at YouGov’s public opinion data on TV personalities and ranked the 28 (out of 559) who had a 50% positive opinion rating or higher. The following list ranks hosts by positive opinion, with ties broken internally at YouGov. It features a variety of hosts—from game show hosts to news anchors—and spans every decade of television.

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Jack Benny playing the violin

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#28. Jack Benny

– Share of people who have positive opinion on host: 50%
– Share of people who have heard of host: 75%

A comedian who started his career in vaudeville, Jack Benny became famous as a radio host in the 1930s. His career spanned decades, and his most notable work as a host came from hosting his own television program, “The Jack Benny Program,” from 1950–1965.

Cindy Crawford In India

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#27. Cindy Crawford

– Positive opinion: 50%
– Heard of: 88%

Most famous for her work as a supermodel in the 1990s, Cindy Crawford also had a brief but influential hosting career. During her heyday, the cover girl hosted the MTV series “House of Style,” where she interviewed fellow models and fashion designers.

Mario Lopez interviews Buddy Valastro during "Extra"

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#26. Mario Lopez

– Positive opinion: 50%
– Heard of: 83%

After gaining notoriety for his starring role on “Saved by the Bell” in the early 1990s, Mario Lopez found success as a host for a variety of reality television programs. In addition to popping in for guest-hosting spots on “The Ellen Degeneres Show,” “The View,” and “Live with Kelly and Ryan,” Lopez has hosted entertainment news programs like “Extra,” “Access Hollywood,” and “Access Daily.” In addition to hosting “America’s Best Dance Crew,” “The X Factor,” and numerous Miss America Pageants, Lopez also hosted his own titular reality series, “Mario Lopez: One on One.”

Al Roker at the 90th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

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#25. Al Roker

– Positive opinion: 50%
– Heard of: 88%

Al Roker has been a host and weather anchor for “The Today Show” since 1996. Across his 45-plus years on television, Roker has hosted countless shows and specials, but he is perhaps most well-known as the commentator of the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade special.

Wayne Brady in the Episode 1 season premiere of GAME OF TALENTS

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#24. Wayne Brady

– Positive opinion: 50%
– Heard of: 79%

Wayne Brady became a household name as an improvisational sensation on the comedy TV program “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” in the late 1990s and early aughts. Aside from improv comedy, Brady hosted his own talk show, “The Wayne Brady Show,” as well as shows like “Don’t Forget the Lyrics!” and “Game of Talents.” He has been the host of “Let’s Make a Deal” since 2009.

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Conan O'Brien with Brad Pitt on set of "Late Night with Conan O' Brien"

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#23. Conan O’Brien

– Positive opinion: 51%
– Heard of: 95%

Early in Conan O’Brien’s career, he honed his comedy chops with gigs writing for “Saturday Night Live” and “The Simpsons.” He then took the airwaves by storm as a popular late-night host: first, on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” from 1993–2009; followed by an infamously brief run as the host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show”; and most recently, on his own program, “Conan,” from 2010–2021. O’Brien also hosts a podcast called “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend.”

Andy Rooney in his CBS office in New York, New York

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#22. Andy Rooney

– Positive opinion: 51%
– Heard of: 79%

A prolific radio and TV writer, Andy Rooney became a popular and trustworthy television host with his end-of-program segment on “60 Minutes” called “A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney.” The segment, which ran from 1978 until Rooney’s retirement in 2011, typically focused on his satirical take on the issues of everyday life.

Julia Child prepares a dish for a TV audience

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#21. Julia Child

– Positive opinion: 51%
– Heard of: 81%

After the popularity of her now-iconic cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” Julia Child found herself hosting the successful and influential cooking program “The French Chef” from 1962–1973. She went on to spend the next three decades of her career hosting various other instructional cooking programs, including the popular “The Way to Cook” video series.

Howie Mandel poses after he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

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#20. Howie Mandel

– Positive opinion: 51%
– Heard of: 91%

A multi-hyphenate in the entertainment industry, Howie Mandel is known to most as the popular host of “Deal or No Deal.” Mandel has also hosted “America’s Got Talent,” “How Mandel Does Stuff Podcast,” and Netflix’s “Bullsh*t the Game Show.”

Jack Hanna holding a bird on the set of “Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild”

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#19. Jack Hanna

– Positive opinion: 51%
– Heard of: 74%

As a retired zookeeper, Jack Hanna continued to spread his love and knowledge of animals through wildly popular television appearances. He hosted animal segments on programs like “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” “Late Show with David Letterman,” and “Good Morning America.” He also hosted his own series, including “Jack Hanna’s Wild Countdown” and “Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild.”

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Pat Sajak at a taping of the Wheel of Fortune's 35th Anniversary Season

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#18. Pat Sajak

– Positive opinion: 51%
– Heard of: 86%

Pat Sajak has hosted “Wheel of Fortune” since 1981. He’s become a household name and has received 21 nominations for the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Game Show Host and has won three times. He was also awarded a Lifetime Achievement Emmy in 2011.

Red Skelton wearing an Indian headdress and sticking his head out of a prop on 'The Red Skelton Hour'

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#17. Red Skelton

– Positive opinion: 52%
– Heard of: 73%

Red Skelton was a comedian famous for his appearances on radio and television from the 1930s through the 1970s. His most popular work was as the host of his own program, “The Red Skelton Hour,” from 1951–1971.

David Letterman at an event for "Late Show with David Letterman"

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#16. David Letterman

– Positive opinion: 52%
– Heard of: 91%

Now most famous for his nearly 20-year stint as the host of “Late Show with David Letterman,” David Letterman first hosted his own morning show in 1980, followed by 11 years hosting “Late Night with David Letterman.” Since 2018, he’s hosted three seasons of Netflix’s “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman.”

Ed Sullivan standing with the Beatles on the set of his television series

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#15. Ed Sullivan

– Positive opinion: 53%
– Heard of: 81%

Ed Sullivan was the host of the influential television program, “The Ed Sullivan Show,” from 1948 to 1971. His show is known for introducing millions of Americans to the likes of Elvis Presley and the Beatles.

Bill Nye hosts National Park Foundation 'View-A-Thon'

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#14. Bill Nye

– Positive opinion: 53%
– Heard of: 86%

Bill Nye created and hosted the television program “Bill Nye the Science Guy” from 1993 to 1998 and taught a generation of young viewers about science. He also hosted 2017’s Netflix series, “Bill Nye Saves the World.”

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Joan Rivers on the set of her late night show

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#13. Joan Rivers

– Positive opinion: 53%
– Heard of: 93%

Like Carol Burnett and Mary Tyler Moore, Joan Rivers broke the glass ceiling with her work as a woman in comedy—but her career as a television host was no less influential. After brief stints hosting her own shows—with “The Joan Rivers Show” in the late 1960s and then again in the early 1990s and “The Late Show with Joan Rivers” in the 1980s—Rivers made her way into the popular lexicon with her biting work as a co-host of E!’s “Fashion Police” and “Live from the Red Carpet.”

Jay Leno with Tom Cruise on the set of "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno"

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#12. Jay Leno

– Positive opinion: 54%
– Heard of: 96%

Jay Leno appeared nightly on the TVs of millions of Americans as the host of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” from 1992 to 2009 (and again from 2010 to 2014). He went on to host a number of other shows including “The Jay Leno Show,” “Jay Leno’s Garage,” and a 2021 revival of “You Bet Your Life.”

Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa on the set of "Live! with Regis & Kelly"

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#11. Regis Philbin

– Positive opinion: 54%
– Heard of: 90%

Many Americans woke up with Regis Philbin during his longtime runs as host of “Live with Regis and Kathie Lee” and subsequently “Live with Regis and Kelly.” He also had a popular run as the original host of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”

Casey Kasem taping his radio show in Los Angeles

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#10. Casey Kasem

– Positive opinion: 54%
– Heard of: 77%

Casey Kasem grew his popularity as the host of the radio countdown program, “American Top 40.” Kasem hosted a TV version of this program (“America’s Top 10”) from 1980 to 1992. Kasem was also the voice of Shaggy Rogers on “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?” and numerous Scooby-Doo programs thereafter.

Drew Carey celebrates his 500th "The Price Is Right" show at CBS Television City

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#9. Drew Carey

– Positive opinion: 55%
– Heard of: 89%

After gaining notoriety as a comedian and the star of his own self-titled sitcom, Drew Carey went on to have a successful hosting career. He has become well-known as the host of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” and even replaced Bob Barker as the host of “The Price Is Right” in 2007.

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Jeff Foxworthy on the set of "Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?"

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#8. Jeff Foxworthy

– Positive opinion: 55%
– Heard of: 86%

Famous for his work as a stand-up comedian, Jeff Foxworthy became a popular host of the show “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” from 2007–2009. He’s since hosted three seasons of a game show called “The American Bible Challenge” that—you guessed it—challenged contestants on their knowledge of the Bible.

Bob Barker at his last taping of "The Price is Right"

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#7. Bob Barker

– Positive opinion: 59%
– Heard of: 87%

One of the most famous game show hosts of all time, Bob Barker hosted “The Price Is Right” from 1972 to 2007. He famously ended each episode with a reminder to audiences to get their pets spayed or neutered.

Dick Clark talking to members of the studio audience during 'American Bandstand'

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#6. Dick Clark

– Positive opinion: 59%
– Heard of: 85%

Dick Clark is most famous for his work hosting the television program “American Bandstand” from 1956 to 1989. He’s also well-known for hosting “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” alongside the famous ball drop in New York’s Times Square.

Steve Harvey hosts an event

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#5. Steve Harvey

– Positive opinion: 60%
– Heard of: 94%

Prolific in many ways, Steve Harvey has hosted a slew of television programs including his own show, “Steve Harvey,” and the podcast “The Steve Harvey Morning Show.” He’s also made waves as a host of “Family Feud” and “Celebrity Family Feud.”

Walter Cronkite on set for CBS

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#4. Walter Cronkite

– Positive opinion: 60%
– Heard of: 84%

Known during his career as “the most trusted man in America,” Walter Cronkite served as anchorman for 19 years on “CBS Evening News.” His humanity was burned into the national consciousness during his reportage in 1963 on the assassination of U.S. President John Kennedy. He won several awards for his work as a reporter, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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Johnny Carson at his desk on set

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#3. Johnny Carson

– Positive opinion: 61%
– Heard of: 86%

Johnny Carson is best known for his tenure as the host of “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” from 1962 to 1992. He received six Primetime Emmy Awards for his work. During his tenure, Carson hosted more than 8,000 episodes.

Steve Irwin poses with a three foot long alligator at the San Francisco Zoo

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#2. Steve Irwin

– Positive opinion: 62%
– Heard of: 86%

Internationally beloved, Steve Irwin was a zookeeper and conservationist who taught a generation of audiences about animals with his program, “The Crocodile Hunter,” from 1997 to 2004—two years before his untimely death. He also hosted a number of other animal-related programs with his wife Terri including “Croc Files” and “New Breed Vets.”

Game show host Alex Trebek on the set of the "Jeopardy!"

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#1. Alex Trebek

– Positive opinion: 74%
– Heard of: 92%

Although Alex Trebek got his start hosting game shows like “The Wizard of Odds” and “Double Dare,” he’s best known as the face and voice of “Jeopardy!” which he hosted from 1984 until his death in 2020. For his work on “Jeopardy!” Trebek won eight Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Game Show Host.

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