Johnny Carson was the consumate entertainer. The best straight-man ever. I grew up watching his show. Rarely missed one, once I was ‘of age’ to be able to watch that late at night. I can’t tell you how clear the memories of Art Fern’s Tea Time Movies, Miss Blabby, Carnack the Magnificent, and Tea for Two are in my mind.
This man’s long run as the King of Late Night television had a dramatic impact on anyone over 40 today. Students, most of you were about 7 or 8 when Carson left the throne of television in 1992. But, I bet he is even having an impact on you, nonetheless. The reason? He launched so many careers. Steve Martin, Joan Rivers, David Letterman and Jay Leno are just a few. Carson interviewed Richard Nixon (31 December 1971) and Bill Clinton. And Groucho Marx. He made Don Rickles a darling, Bette Midler a star, and countless others owe their careers to him. Look at this list of stars from the ’60’s alone. And this list of memorable show events. Those stars influenced your parents and are influencing your lives today.
We don’t have anyone like him anymore. Probably never will. He was an icon for 30 years, not only in television, but also in politics, music, comedy, and more.
The most memorable event (totally by accident) may be the ‘hatchet throw’ by Ed Ames – from the show ‘Daniel Boone”. Ames was “aiming for a cowboy sketched onto a prop wall. The tomahawk struck the drawing right in its crotch; the whole set broke into pandemonium.” (Source)
On December 17, 1969, Carson had (what at that time was) his largest audience ever when he hosted the marriage of Tiny Tim and Miss Vicki. It was actually one of the largest audiences for TV – period.
Can’t believe I left out the most important/prominent aspect … the monologue. His monologue could effect public opinion. A gentle friendly ‘roast’ of sorts, from Carson, could give a person a boost. A more pointed, but never mean (he was never mean), joke could take you down. I’m not kidding when I say that Carson’s jokes about Nixon had some of the same effect as Cronkite standing up and commenting that Vietnam was a lost cause. Different people – different ways, but similar impacts. Perhaps the ‘two’ most trusted faces/voices of television. That’s my opinion, anyway.
Johnny Carson will be missed. I must add – he
was is my hero.