Newest late night TV host? Neil deGrasse Tyson.

National Geographic Channel announced this afternoon Tyson’s popular podcast Star Talk is coming to the network’s late night.
“This is low risk for National Geographic because it exists as a thriving podcast — it was selected by iTunes as one of Top 10 podcasts of 2014,” Tyson said modestly at Winter TV Press Tour 2015. ” It’s a mixture of comedy, science and pop culture. I’m the host, yet I’m the scientist! And my guests are hardly ever scientists. Our goal is to hew them from pop culture,” he told the journalists, adding that he sometimes even has journalists on the show — anyone who has a “following.”

“It will be National Geographic’s very first talk show so we look forward to how this plays out,” he said. The pugnacious pundit said he won’t court controversy on his late night show, but one of his first guests will be “avid athiest” Richard Dawkins.

The show will be filmed in the Hall of the Universe, in New York City’s American Museum of Natural History.  The show will be filmed in the Hall of the Universe, in New York City’s American Museum of Natural History. Tyson said the show is inspired by NPR’s Car Talk, which he described as two guys who were really smart and funny and  “knew so much about cars.”

Asked what are the science fiction programs on TV now that he enjoys, Tyson declined to name any because, it appears, he doesn’t. Tyson said he likes big-budget sci-fi feature films, with which he suggested TV simply can’t keep pace because of budgets. Tyson said he prefers “intelligent drama” on television. But he is impressed by the “runaway success of  The Big Bang Theory on CBS, and imagined pitching the show: ” ‘Let’s feature five PhD scientists taking science jokes you don’t understand – it will be funny!’,”  he said, adding that its success has convinced him science is mainstreaming.

Rock star astrophysicist Tyson – who’ previously hosted Fox’s much ballyhooed Cosmos remake — made a point of bringing up recent headlines he made when he tweeted Happy Birthday wishes to physicist Isaac Newton on Christmas Day…

…a message that became his most re-tweeted ever, mostly owing to those who thought he was mocking Baby Jesus, which elicited this response:

He wound up explaining at greater length, on his Facebook page, “Everybody knows that Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25th. I think fewer people know that Isaac Newton shares the same birthday… And perhaps even fewer people know that before he turned 30, Newton had discovered the laws of motion, the universal law of gravitation, and invented integral and differential calculus. All of which served as the mechanistic foundation for the industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries that would forever transform the world. My sense in this case is that the high rate of re-tweeting, is not to share my enthusiasm of this fact, but is driven by accusations that the tweet is somehow anti-Christian.”

Tyson again this afternoon at Press Tour noted his average re-tweet rate is around 3,000 and that this Newton birthday hit 81K.  (earlier, he’d noted another tweet in which he said:  “Some claim the USA is a Christian nation, compelling me to wonder which assault rifle Jesus would choose: the AR-15 or AK-47” only garnered 13,000 re-tweets.

“I’m intrigued by this… it’s free speech,” Tyson marveled today, adding,  “I’m an observer of it, anthropologically.”