Idle question: Why do some talk show hosts still have microphones on their desks?

If you look at the clips of some talk show hosts such as Conan O’Brien, Seth Meyers, and Jimmy Fallon, who all sit at desks and talk to their guests, you will notice a large microphone on the desk. As far as I am aware, all the hosts and guests nowadays have wireless microphones attached to their clothing somewhere so why is there a desk microphone? Nobody actually talks directly into it. Does it serve some purpose or is it just a nod to tradition?


  1. DonDueed says

    It may also be backup in case the wireless mic fails for either host or guest. Another possibility is that it eliminates the need for a boom mic, which complicates the camera shots anytime someone moves away from the seats.

  2. doublereed says

    Fake microphones are everywhere. Most gameshows, music shows, and stage shows have obviously fake microphones.

    They always give singers big microphones even though they obviously aren’t real. Although for singers it gives them something to do with their hands so there it serves some purpose at least.

  3. Lofty says

    I see no good reason why the microphone shouldn’t be an actual plugged in item. A good microphone has particular qualities and would be plugged into the mixer board. Even a faux antique one would have thoroughly modern internals. It also serves as an “online” reminder to stick to the script. Many people’s on air indiscretions end up in “Shush, there’s a microphone”.

  4. moarscienceplz says

    For that matter, why do they have desks? Except when Jimmy Fallon does his thank you notes, of course.

  5. Mano Singham says

    I can see some point to a desk. You can keep note cards on it, mugs of drinks, and keep stuff hidden under it that you can bring out during the show or during breaks.

  6. says

    Old style microphones serve as much purporse as turntables for “DJs” at danceclubs or the floppy disk as a “Save” icon. Some imagery will never go away.

  7. Smokey says

    Desks are good. It hides the fact that the person sitting there is naked from the waist down.

    And microphones serve a very important function. It tells the viewers, that are of very average intelligence, to listen.

    “Shut up, there’s a microphone!”

  8. Dunc says

    Old style microphones serve as much purporse as turntables for “DJs” at danceclubs

    All the places that I go that have turntables actually use them.

  9. says

    Not only is Conan’s desk microphone real, it’s plugged in and working. There are times he uses it as a prop and knocks it over and you can hear the thump. There have also been times he’s leaned over and whispered into it. I’ve no reason to believe the other desk mics aren’t also functioning.

  10. moarscienceplz says

    Smokey #9

    Desks are good. It hides the fact that the person sitting there is naked from the waist down.

    You’re not far wrong. I got to see a number of local TV news shows from the control room when I was a kid, and I often saw guys (it was always the guys, never the women) wearing a very nice jacket and tie, with a ratty pair of jean cutoffs hidden behind the desk. Of course, these late night shows always start with stand-up monologues, so that won’t work for them.

  11. says

    Some are definitely real, and probably many are. It’s sound quality. And some audio people definitely prefer certain types for sure. Especially those old ribbon-type microphones. Like the way some love tube amps or vinyl.

  12. Sebastian says

    I think, and I could be wrong, but it’s like a documentary, where they use the mic for better mixing, but also as a back up, they, also have mics poi Ted at the audience to mix the laughter in with the dialogue.

    So I would say, yes tradition, for back up purposes and for mixing for broadcast. I would put money on someone like Stephen Colbert, who doesn’t have a desk mic, wearing 2 packs.

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