Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Happy Birthday, Johnny Carson!

Today October 23 would have been Johnny Carson's 87th birthday. He was a successful comedian when he became the host of The Tonight Show in 1962, a job he held until 1992. During the 70s there was only one talk show you wanted to watch every night, and it was his. Johnny Carson was THE host, much like Oprah Winfrey has been for the past few decades. In the 80s there were some serious contenders, but he still commanded a lucrative salary and a huge audience. There were others, but nobody came close to his level of popularity. When he retired in 1992 after 30 years, it was a big deal.

Each night was the same format: he would start with a stand-up routine about current affairs. When that was done he would have several guests, and not just celebrities. Musicians, artists, zoologists, other comedians....they all wanted to sit and chat with Johnny. Sometimes he would do skits making fun of movies or TV or commercials. The 90 minutes (and later, just one hour) would fly by.

Besides being an easy-going host he was also a wicked stand-up comedian. Even when he floundered...or maybe especially when he flubbed?....he was hilarious, as this proves, as he is trying to make a joke about President Reagan's defense and educational policies.

And of course, any fan of Johnny Carson knows exactly who Carnac The Magnificent is. Here's a clip from 1974. Some of the jokes are dated, but most are not. :-)

Here's Dave Letterman talking to Johnny in August 1991. The count-down to Johnny's last show had started (he left in May 1992). Here Dave talks about "The Tonight Show" going to Jay Leno instead of to him. Consider their very different styles...and smile ironically when Dave says that he probably won't be a host for anywhere near as long as Johnny had been...more than 20 years ago. :-)

Sadly, Johnny died in 2005. 

Happy Birthday, Johnny Carson!! 

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