In anticipation of his March 30 anniversary, Craig Kilborn invited Early Show Entertainment Reporter Mark McEwen inside his Beverly Hills set for a sneak peak behind the scenes.
Kilborn's road to success can be traced to his hometown of Hastings, Minn., where he garnered a junior high participation award (presumably for showing up). At Hastings High School, he was a star basketball player. His nickname on the courts: Killer Kilborn.
"I was a slow white player," he recalls. "In fact I still am," he says, laughing.
The most points he ever scored in a game? "I never really exploded," he says. "I had 34 in a game in high school. I averaged 27."
"But this (was) in high school in the hockey state of Minnesota," he adds.
Kilborn went on to anchor ESPN's top-rated SportsCenter. He says he's not sure how he landed a hit talk show fathered by the king of late-night television, David Letterman.
"I actually was concerned that if I went to ESPN, then nationally they'd know me as a sportscaster," he says. "But it worked out pretty well."
"I grew up watching Johnny Carson and David Letterman. And it is fun following Dave. That's pretty exciting," he admits.
When the lights go on and it says the studio is hot, what does he ultimately want out of a show? "When the red light clicks on, (I ) don't want to fall," Kilborn quips. "And then I hit the spot. The audience is cheering," he adds.
Much of Kilborn's success in late night television has been his knack at putting his guests through extreme witty tests. Such stunts keep his audience and special guest stars on their toes. A former host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central, he created several elements now adapted for Late Late Show, including his top-five questions segments.
What has he learned in the last year? "Something special happened here," he says. "I'm doing something different here in Los Angeles, Calif., in late night. They said it couldn't be done. And it feels pretty good."