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Throughout most of the show's run, it was also simulcast over some CBS Radio stations, and Snyder accepted calls from viewers/listeners somewhat in the manner of Larry King; to accommodate this, the show was broadcast live in the Eastern and Central United States and on radio in the west, a rarity for late-night talk shows that had otherwise transitioned to tape, though due to existing syndication contracts and resistance to give up local control of timeslots, many stations, such as WJZ-TV in Baltimore, would delay it to as late as a.m.
When Snyder was on vacation, the show featured guest hosts such as Jon Stewart or Janeane Garofalo.
Letterman and Snyder had a long history together: a 1978 Tomorrow episode hosted by Snyder was almost exclusively devoted to a long interview with up-and-coming new comedy talents Letterman, Billy Crystal and Merrill Markoe.
And in 1982, when Tomorrow was canceled by NBC, Letterman's series Late Night with David Letterman, succeeded Tomorrow in the timeslot, and Snyder had been offered but refused a move to after Late Night by NBC.
Tom Snyder hosted the program from its inception in January 1995 until March 1999.
The choice of Snyder as host was made by David Letterman, whose contract with CBS gave him (via production company Worldwide Pants) the power to produce the show in the timeslot immediately after his own program and who had an affinity for Snyder, whose NBC late night series Tomorrow had been succeeded by Late Night with David Letterman.
After Kilborn's stand-up monologue, he walked to his "Bavarian oak desk" the opening consisted of shots of various Los Angeles hotspots accompanied by a new theme song performed and written by Chris Isaak.
When Kilborn was on the show, it began with an image of a full moon wavering behind gray stratus clouds, to the tuning of an orchestra, while the announcer—the recorded, modulated voice of Kilborn himself—blurted out, "From the gorgeous, gorgeous Hollywood Hills in sunny California, it's your Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn.
The show differed from most of the other extant late-night talk shows during its first two decades on air in that it did not use a house band or an in-studio announcer.
The traditional opening monologue also tended to be different from that of other late night shows tending to avoid jokes with punch lines during Snyder and Ferguson's tenures in favour of a short conversational introduction when Snyder was host and a cold opening featuring either a musical parody, audience interaction, a short sketch or interaction between Ferguson and Geoff Peterson followed by an anecdotal stream of consciousness introduction during most of Ferguson's years.
Letterman then insisted on Snyder despite CBS wanting a younger host with a comedy background and a more traditional late night talk variety format.
Snyder would return to CBS to guest-host some episodes of the Late Show while Letterman recuperated from heart surgery in 2000.