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12 Times Late Night Hosts Got Super Serious (And Maybe Even Cried)

David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel, Conan O'Brien
Theo Wargo / Kevin Winter / Alberto E. Rodriguez, Getty Images

Late night TV is supposed to be a time to unwind with a good laugh before bed, but every once in awhile we’re thrown a curveball.

Jimmy Kimmel has gone viral after he got emotional while discussing his son’s heart condition on Monday night’s show. Usually, comedians make us laugh ’til we cry, but he managed to make us cry until we cried some more. Amazingly, it’s not the first time a late night host — or even Kimmel himself — has strayed from the typical script by getting serious and trying to stave off the water works.

Yes, these funny men have proven they are more than just a setup and punchline about the news of the day. They have a depth to them that often throws us off-guard, but also endears them to us.

Take a look below at some notable times when late night hosts cut the laughter short and got real.

David Letterman After September 11, 2001 Attacks

A devastated America was still in shock after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Letterman summed up what an entire nation, coming to grips with what had occurred, was feeling.

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David Letterman Admits to Adultery

Letterman shocked his Late Show audience in 2009 when he came clean about how he had sexual relations with women on his staff. He also admitted he was the victim of an extortion plot in connection with the dalliances. It wasn’t so much a moment for Letterman to cry as it was a time for bewildered audience to try and figure out that Letterman wasn’t making a joke — he was being dead serious.

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Jay Leno’s Last Tonight Show in 2014

Leno’s second tour of duty as host The Tonight Show ended with him turning on the water works as he waxed poetic.

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Conan O’Brien Reveals Robin Williams Died

It’s rare late night TV shares breaking news, but Conan O’Brien did so when he revealed Williams has passed away. O’Brien maintained a somber tone after telling his audience and viewers that the funnyman had died.

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Jimmy Fallon Pays Tribute to Robin Williams

Fallon managed to keep it together while he paid homage to the Oscar winner. He also ended the segment with a nod to Dead Poets Society.

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Conan O’Brien’s Goodbye As Host of The Tonight Show

O’Brien’s short tenure as host of The Tonight Show was marked by declining ratings, indecision among network brass and rumors Jay Leno tried to get the show back. O’Brien showed real class under duress during his last episode.

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Jimmy Kimmel on the Death of Cecil the Lion

Back in 2015, a dentist in Minnesota became public enemy number one when word got out he killed a lion in Zimbabwe. Jimmy Kimmel went off on the matter and then got all choked up toward the end.

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Jimmy Kimmel Tribute to Don Rickles

Kimmel’s words on what Rickles, who passed away last month, meant to him are incredibly moving. You could feel the love Kimmel had for the legendary comedian.

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Jimmy Fallon After the Orlando Nightclub Massacre

Fallon, who has taken some heat for what some feel is remaining too passive about current events, tried to make sense of the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in 2016.

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Stephen Colbert After the Orlando Nightclub Massacre

Much like Fallon, Colbert did his best to express himself after what happened in Orlando. He spoke eloquently to a numb nation.

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Johnny Carson Reacts to James Stewart Reading Poem About His Dog

Okay, okay — technically, Carson wasn’t the one responsible for this, but you could see he was touched when James Stewart read a gut-wrenching poem about his dog. This was one of those “there wasn’t a dry eye in the house” moments.

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Johnny Carson’s Final Tonight Show

Carson set the gold standard for late night hosts during his run on NBC — a model which stands to this day. His final show in 1992 was a major TV event and his goodbye did not disappoint an adoring audience.

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