Starting a live talk show? Look to these 5 interviewers for inspiration

Do you interview guests on your live show? Take tips and inspiration from these five interviewers to sharpen your skills and ensure an engaging broadcast.
5 interviewers with memorable styles to inspire your live show

You want to start live streaming — to connect with people, promote your brand, or just because you have something to say. Great! But what kind of content should you highlight in your live videos? One way to get started is to host a live talk show and interview guests. They could be successful people in your industry, other content creators you look up to, or just people you find interesting.

To inspire and excite you to give a talk show a go, we picked five of the most memorable interviewers of radio and TV. Each one has a different interview style that distinguishes them from other interviewers and appeals to their particular audience. Read on to find out what sets them apart and learn tips you can use in your own interviews.

1. Oprah Winfrey: driven by emotion

As a talk show host, producer, actress, author and philanthropist, Oprah Winfrey has been a force in American media, culture and even politics for over 30 years. Her style of interviewing revolutionized daytime talk shows. “The Oprah Winfrey Show” started as a tabloid talk show but Winfrey eventually shifted the focus to deeper issues like heart disease, geopolitics, literature and spirituality. Winfrey is known for her emotion-centered approach to interviews that is often intimate and confessional. By talking about her own struggles and empathizing with her guests, Winfrey gets interviewees to open up.

What you can learn: As an interviewer, Winfrey gets her guests to share deeply personal stories by making them feel safe and heard. She knows that to create a safe space, she needs to show her own emotional vulnerability. She often shares her own deeply personal stories or opens up about her past as a way to let interviewees know that she’s just like them. Although Winfrey has been criticized for propagating “confession culture” and promoting unresearched self-help ideas, there’s no doubt that her style of interview has made a lasting impact on TV and the media. If your live show centers on emotional and intimate storytelling, you should be willing to expose some vulnerability yourself.

2. Mike Wallace: founder of the modern tv interview

It’s hard to talk about modern TV and live show interviews without mentioning Mike Wallace. With a media career that spanned seven decades, Wallace interviewed countless politicians, celebrities, academics and other newsmakers. He was also one of the first regular journalists on the interview show “60 Minutes.” Wallace solidified his reputation as a hard-hitting interviewer who wasn’t afraid to provoke strong reactions in his interviewees. He asked tough questions and could even be a bit of a bully to get the answers he wanted. It’s fair to say his interview style inspired more than one generation of radio and TV journalists.

What you can learn: As an interviewer for your live show, you can emulate Wallace’s tenacity in getting the truth from interviewees. To get interesting stories or quotes, you have to be willing to ask uncomfortable questions. You should also do your due diligence and research your guest as much as possible beforehand so you have those hard-hitting questions ready.

3. Howard Stern: polarizing but intriguing

Most people either love or hate media personality Howard Stern — either way, they have an opinion about him. The polarizing radio and TV host has interviewed celebrities of all kinds in his 40-year career, and he’s known for getting his guests to blurt out secrets they wouldn’t otherwise share. He’s provocative and even borderline rude to his interviewees, but he gets them to say the interesting things his audience wants to hear.

What you can learn: Howard Stern has a habit of cutting off his guests, which some critics see as rude or narcissistic. He’s not interrupting people just so he can talk more, however. He’s trying to move the conversation along. His style is based on keeping questions and answers tight and short to hold his audience’s attention. He’s also very observant of his guests, trying to get a good read on them so he can tell when the right moments are to interrupt or let them keep talking. For your live show, you don’t have to be as divisive as Howard Stern, but you can use the same technique to watch your guest closely and steer the conversation in the most interesting direction.

4. Stephen Colbert: playing a character

Stephen Colbert would be just another late-night-talk-show comedian if it weren’t for the method he used on “The Colbert Report.” Colbert played a character that satirized conservative political pundits of the day. He was putting on a performance throughout the entire show and almost never broke character in the thousands of “Colbert Report” episodes he filmed. Donning this over-the-top role is what made Colbert a noteworthy interviewer. His guests didn’t know what to expect next from him, and some were even unsure if was joking.

What you can learn: Staying in character for an entire interview can be difficult to do — but it can also be freeing. If the thought of live streaming as yourself makes you feel uncomfortable, or you feel insecure about asking guests tough questions to get interesting details from them, playing a role can help you overcome your fears. If you’re planning to play a character for comedic effect, like Colbert, then you’ll need to be sure you can keep a straight face the whole time.

5. Ellen DeGeneres: lighthearted but still deep

As one of the longest-running hosts of a single talk show, Ellen DeGeneres has found a formula that works. The TV host, actress, writer and producer started as a stand-up comedian and eventually launched “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” in 2003. DeGeneres’s style of comedy is lighthearted and even goofy, making her a perfect fit for daytime TV. As a comedian, she loves to tell jokes and have fun with her interviewees, but she’s also not afraid to go deeper. In several interviews, she’s discussed important social issues or helped guests speak with more candor about their fears and struggles.

What you can learn: DeGeneres is proof that you don’t necessarily need “confession culture” or hard-hitting journalism to get valuable stories from interviewees. If emotional outpouring like Oprah Winfrey, controversial provocation like Howard Stern, or biting political comedy like Stephen Colbert aren’t your style, try keeping things light and fun, like DeGeneres. When the interview is easygoing and humorous, it can be easier for interviewees to come out of their shells.


There are a lot of great interviewers out there and choosing just five to highlight wasn’t easy. Each of the five on this list have a unique style or try to go after a certain audience, which makes them distinct. The interview style you choose for your live show will depend on who your audience is too. Hopefully you can draw inspiration and valuable lessons from these memorable interviewers and produce an awesome live show of your own!

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