Home Culture Culture Lists

12 Actors Who Became TV Hosts

From Bill Maher to Mario Lopez, these thespians like it better on the other side of the interview table

Kevin Fitzsimons/ComedyCentral (Stewart), Michael Rozman/Warner Bros (Ellen), Janet Van Ham/HBO (Maher)

Let's face it: He may have ushered the Beatles into the American consciousness, but Ed Sullivan was kind of a bore. If it weren't for the aforementioned Liverpudlians, the Rolling Stones, the Doors and countless other popular entertainers holding the audience's attention, The Ed Sullivan Show probably wouldn't have lasted two episodes, let alone two decades. But these days, it's the hosts we're tuning in to see, with their guests more often than not playing the role of sideman. The reason? Many of the most popular TV hosts today are former or still-working actors who are plenty skilled at engaging an audience. These emcees have a slew of notable – and some not-so-notable – acting credits on their resume, but they've also flourished at playing themselves (or in the case of Stephen Colbert, a version of himself).

Check out these 12 actors who have forged successful second careers as TV hosts.

By Sarene Leeds


Photos: The 11 Best Comedian-Musicians

The 10 Best Comedy Podcasts of the Moment

Photos: A History of Comedy Stars on the Cover of Rolling Stone

Play video

Ellen DeGeneres

She's come a long way since Mr. Wrong. Her first sitcom, Ellen, is best remembered as the venue Ellen DeGeneres used to have her character come out as a lesbian in 1997 during the controversial "Puppy Episode." But Ellen's ratings declined not long after DeGeneres' personal and onscreen revelation (DeGeneres herself had come out to Oprah Winfrey earlier in the year). After a second attempt at a sitcom failed, DeGeneres re-established herself as a wildly successful afternoon talk-show host when The Ellen DeGeneres Show premiered in 2003. And while her stint as a judge on American Idol may have lasted only one season, it was the catalyst for DeGeneres' next career: music mogul. Last year, DeGeneres announced that she was starting her own record label in order to help launch the career of 12-year-old piano wunderkind Greyson Chance.

Play video

Mario Lopez

These days, he can be found dishing the latest American Idol gossip or counting down the days to royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton as the host of the entertainment-news show Extra. But to most females who were tweens or teens in the early Nineties, Mario Lopez will always be the acid-washed-jeans-wearing football-playing beefcake A.C. Slater from Saved by the Bell. (And for those with even longer memories, back in the Eighties, he co-starred with the Black Eyed Peas' Fergie in Kids, Incorporated, about an all-kids rock band.) The Jheri-curled mullet may be long gone, but Lopez's twinkling schoolboy smile is still intact.

Play video

Rosie O’Donnell

First she was a chick-flick queen, starring in films like Sleepless in Seattle and A League of Their Own. Then, a couple of years after bringing the iconic cartoon character Betty Rubble to life in The Flintstones, she became the "Queen of Nice," as the Koosh-flinging, Tom Cruise-adoring host of The Rosie O'Donnell Show, which ran from 1996 to 2002. She was also briefly the queen of the on-air feud, regularly clashing with her conservative View co-host, Elisabeth Hasselbeck over the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq War. But now, Rosie O'Donnell is stepping into the domain previously held by the queen of all media, Oprah Winfrey. This fall, she'll launch a brand-new talk show on Winfrey's OWN channel – which will reside in the soon-to-be vacated studio space in Chicago, where The Oprah Winfrey Show has taped for 25 seasons.

Photos: A History of Comedy Stars on the Cover of Rolling Stone