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King of Late Night passes.
January 23, 2005 11:11 AM   Subscribe

Goodnight, Johnny. The King of Late Night is dead at 79.
posted by Vidiot (171 comments total)

 
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posted by fenriq at 11:11 AM on January 23, 2005


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posted by Smart Dalek at 11:13 AM on January 23, 2005


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posted by marxchivist at 11:14 AM on January 23, 2005


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posted by Balisong at 11:15 AM on January 23, 2005


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posted by melissa may at 11:16 AM on January 23, 2005


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posted by tommyc at 11:18 AM on January 23, 2005


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posted by By The Grace of God at 11:18 AM on January 23, 2005


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posted by LouReedsSon at 11:18 AM on January 23, 2005


He was the best. As this appreciation on MSNBC.com says, the day he left the "Tonight Show" was the day that television died.

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posted by Vidiot at 11:19 AM on January 23, 2005


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posted by m0nm0n at 11:20 AM on January 23, 2005


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posted by Corky at 11:20 AM on January 23, 2005


. indeed right after we remembered and enjoyed his wit again once it became known he was writting for Dave Letterman. Johnny we miss you, bless and rest well.

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posted by Elim at 11:21 AM on January 23, 2005


Well, this makes me sad.
posted by y2karl at 11:21 AM on January 23, 2005


Brian Wilson sums it up. (Just heard that one last week, laughed not just because it was goofy, but also because it was completely accurate.)
posted by raysmj at 11:23 AM on January 23, 2005


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posted by moonbird at 11:23 AM on January 23, 2005


Despite his popularity and fame, I remember an endearing fragility inside Johnny.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:24 AM on January 23, 2005


And St. Peter, awaiting him at the Pearly Gates, intoned to all,
"Heeeeeeeeere's Johnny!" He worked with my father at WOW-TV in Omaha for a while, waaaay back in the day. RIP, Johnny - no more emphysema now!
posted by Lynsey at 11:25 AM on January 23, 2005


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posted by allaboutgeorge at 11:27 AM on January 23, 2005


He spoke to everyone. I'm reminded of the scene in "Fargo" in which the crooks hire hookers...but then end up watching Johnny Carson's monologue in bed, just as millions of people across America did every night.

And I'll never forget the night in which he had a sweet little old lady on the program. She worked at a potato chip factory as a quality-control inspector, and showed Johnny the interestingly misshapen potato chips she'd found. One looked like a candle, one looked like a car, some looked like celebrities, et cetera. Johnny was solicitous and interested...but when she looked away for a moment, he brought out a big bowl of chips from underneath his desk, and chomped one loudly. Her look of shock and Johnny's devilish grin made the program, and that will always be my favorite Carson moment.

So many more wonderful moments...from Karnak to Ed Ames' tomahawk toss. My favorites were when an animal didn't behave or a prop didn't work -- he'd spew out a string of extemporaneous one-liners, each funnier than the last.

What were your favorite Carson moments?
posted by Vidiot at 11:27 AM on January 23, 2005


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posted by terrapin at 11:27 AM on January 23, 2005


porkchop
posted by mildred-pitt at 11:28 AM on January 23, 2005


Carson's name has been added to the list of the dearly departed... inside a sealed envelope, of course.

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posted by Faint of Butt at 11:28 AM on January 23, 2005


Vidiot: wow, it's been forever since I've thought of that, but hands down, that was the best. Of course, one of the chips looked like Nixon.
posted by moonbird at 11:30 AM on January 23, 2005


I'm actually glad I'm old - old enough to remember seeing him on TV. Fantastic. . . Even in retirement, he was still writing jokes for Letterman.
posted by absalom at 11:31 AM on January 23, 2005


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posted by schwong at 11:32 AM on January 23, 2005


Johnny he was the reason I was groggy most mornings in high school. The year he stepped down was the year I graduated.
posted by Tenuki at 11:32 AM on January 23, 2005


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posted by briank at 11:35 AM on January 23, 2005


. He was the very best at what he did.
posted by tzikeh at 11:35 AM on January 23, 2005


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posted by scottq at 11:38 AM on January 23, 2005


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posted by nanu at 11:39 AM on January 23, 2005


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posted by jonmc at 11:39 AM on January 23, 2005


One of the last true Legends of television...what a class act. Seeing all the footage of him on the newschannels today just reminds me how much I appreciated him, how much I miss his show, and how bone-headed it was for NBC to have Jay Leno "succeed" Carson.
posted by davidmsc at 11:40 AM on January 23, 2005


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posted by Busithoth at 11:41 AM on January 23, 2005


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posted by fandango_matt at 11:41 AM on January 23, 2005


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posted by Chanther at 11:42 AM on January 23, 2005


I started watching Carson's Tonight Show at a very early age. My parents used to tell me that they'd find that I'd sneaked out of bed at the age of 2 to watch Johnny and David Letterman. I was born in 1981 so my memories of him are from the mid-1980's up until he left in 1992, but I really believe that watching him at such a young age helped me develop my sense of humor.
posted by Servo5678 at 11:42 AM on January 23, 2005


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posted by alumshubby at 11:42 AM on January 23, 2005


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posted by achmorrison at 11:44 AM on January 23, 2005


Thank you Johnny, for shaping my sense of humor and being a happy part of my youth.

Take the Slauson cutoff... no forks in the road...
posted by mania at 11:46 AM on January 23, 2005


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posted by Tin Man at 11:47 AM on January 23, 2005


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posted by Fuzzy Monster at 11:48 AM on January 23, 2005


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posted by myopicman at 11:48 AM on January 23, 2005


He was fun to watch, even in the 70's when you'd be regarded as an idiot by the college 'intelligencia' if you admitted you watched him instead of the supposedly cerebral Cavett. (Who?)
posted by HTuttle at 11:48 AM on January 23, 2005


god, remember those awful skits, with whichever dumb blonde was currently his favorite? : >
posted by amberglow at 11:49 AM on January 23, 2005


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Let the TV specials begin!
posted by abcde at 11:50 AM on January 23, 2005


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posted by SuzySmith at 11:56 AM on January 23, 2005


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posted by rushmc at 11:58 AM on January 23, 2005


amberglow: I think it was always Carol Wayne until she died.

Johnny was the best. I've missed him ever since he retired.

Remember how sometimes it was funnier was the monologue was bombing, and he'd resort to the little vaudeville dance? And the way he could turn on a dime -- making a bawdy double entendre one moment and smirking, then looking innocent and shocked if a guest did it.

Farewell, Johnny, and thanks.
posted by pmurray63 at 12:00 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by barkingspider at 12:02 PM on January 23, 2005


MSNBC.com says, the day he left the "Tonight Show" was the day that television died.

I wonder how that makes NBC talent Jay Leno feel...
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 12:03 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by ssmith at 12:03 PM on January 23, 2005


ahh--that's who it was--i remember Carol Wayne the best, but Teri Garr did a bunch too, no? (and we need tv stars to crack up at their own jokes more, like they did during those skits, and Carol Burnett always did)
posted by amberglow at 12:05 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by synecdoche at 12:06 PM on January 23, 2005


I still laugh as hard now seeing that footage of Ed Ames throwing the knives at Johnny as I did when I was six years old. He shaped my sense of humor more than anybody else on TV and I've missed him ever since he left the public eye. And I was just getting ready to finally order some of those Ginsu's from Art Fern.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 12:07 PM on January 23, 2005


His final show was on my birthday.

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posted by Ruki at 12:08 PM on January 23, 2005


When he was on I always thought he was rather unfunny and boring. I think I often just saw the groan-inducing monologues before toddling off to bed or out to the bar.

It wasn't until after he'd gone off the air that I realized how hard it is to be a truly great talk show host - how the real masters know how to ask the right questions, and how they have a feel for just how much to talk and when to sit back and listen to your guests. Carson was a master because he really made it look effortless.
posted by jalexei at 12:08 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by kamylyon at 12:12 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by cookie-k at 12:18 PM on January 23, 2005


But like Dr Frankenstein, he created (spawned?) the Moby Dick of TV, Ed McMahon...can he be forgiven for that?
posted by Postroad at 12:20 PM on January 23, 2005


I cried
posted by the theory of revolution at 12:22 PM on January 23, 2005


The man was all class.

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posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:25 PM on January 23, 2005


Every time I see Jay Leno's pandering, obnoxious camera-mugging monologues, I think back to what used to be. Man, that show was good. Carson was Jon Stewart without the sarcasm and David Letterman without the ego. How sad to think we'll never have that kind of TV again.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 12:25 PM on January 23, 2005


Goodnight Johnny.

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posted by AstroGuy at 12:27 PM on January 23, 2005


Over the mountain
Down in the valley
Lived the former talk-show host
Far and wide his name was known
He said there's no doubt about it
It was the myth of fingerprints
That's why we must learn to live alone
posted by SPrintF at 12:28 PM on January 23, 2005


Not just funny and a great talent -- along with people like Walter Cronkite, he was part of a time when the US was truly one country: three networks, one audience, one reality. (Like Cronkite, you could love him or hate him, but you couldn't ignore him.)

In a time of hundreds of cable channels, countless web sites, and different news channels creating the world in their own image...we'll never see his like again.
posted by PlusDistance at 12:29 PM on January 23, 2005


Ok, good to know.
posted by Eideteker at 12:33 PM on January 23, 2005


Still the King of Late Night. No one before or since has done it as well, consistently, night after night. R.I.P., Johnny.
posted by enrevanche at 12:35 PM on January 23, 2005


I've never cried over a celebrity's death.

Until now.
posted by WolfDaddy at 12:41 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by moonbiter at 12:58 PM on January 23, 2005


I actually come to tears some days when I realize that my generation has been raised on Jay Leno instead of Johnny Carson.
posted by Arch Stanton at 1:02 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by Navek Rednam at 1:06 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by majcher at 1:38 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by Capn at 1:45 PM on January 23, 2005


God bless you, Johnny, and may you rest in peace. You've been succeeded, but you'll never be replaced.
posted by Zonker at 1:48 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by Outlawyr at 1:49 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by unrepentanthippie at 1:49 PM on January 23, 2005


Has anyone heard from Ed McMahon?
posted by jonmc at 1:50 PM on January 23, 2005


"A chimp, a champ and a chump."
"A chimp, a champ and a chump."
(STFU Ed)

"Cheetah, Leon Spinks and the American Taxpayer."
Those were the friggin days.

posted by nj_subgenius at 1:58 PM on January 23, 2005


I will miss JC, and I had even been wondering what he was up to after last week's news item about him, but these dots are really really stupid.!

If you really have nothing to say, try saying nothing.
posted by milovoo at 2:11 PM on January 23, 2005


Gahhhr!
I wish I could get these Karnak links to work....
posted by nj_subgenius at 2:22 PM on January 23, 2005


If you really have nothing to say, try saying nothing.

Milo, when I was in college, my girfreind's mother passed away. She said that people would come up and say things she found stupid like "I'm Sorry," to which she'd want to respond "Why? Did you kill her?"

But she understood that people wanted to say something to express sympathy, so she said she'd prefer they say "I don't know what to say," more than any of the stock answers.

When it's a case like this, a man most of us didn't know personally but still feel a void at the loss of of, the "." becomes a way of "paying respects," even when we don't have some peice of sparkling oratory available.

I don't want to turn an obituary for one of the giants of television into an argument, but we shouldn't waste energy arguing against something ultimately harmless, especially when it's heart is in the right place.
posted by jonmc at 2:27 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by blasdelf at 2:31 PM on January 23, 2005


period
posted by adampsyche at 2:33 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by nj_subgenius at 2:33 PM on January 23, 2005


Has anyone heard from Ed McMahon?

Ed McMahon will be on "Larry King Live" tomorrow night to talk about Carson.

David Letterman also had a nice statement:
It's a sad day for his family and for the country. All of us who came after are pretenders. We will not see the likes of him again. He gave me shot on his show and in doing so, gave me a career.

A night doesn't go by that I don't ask myself, 'What would have Johnny have done?' He has been greatly missed since his retirement. Thank God for videotapes and DVDs. In this regard, he will always be around. He was the best. A star and a gentleman.
And Roger Ebert wrote a very nice appreciation of Carson. An excerpt:
The first time Siskel and I were invited to appear on the Tonight Show, the evening began badly. "We do not belong here," Gene told me in the dressing room, as we heard Doc Severnson and the orchestra playing the show's theme. "We are Midwest boys from Chicago and we belong in Chicago right now, this very moment, watching this show on television." . . .

Then the moment of truth arrived, we marched out onto the stage just as if we were real Tonight Show guests and not pathetic imposters, and you know what? It was okay, because Johnny made it okay. He projected an area of welcome and calm. There is no other way to describe it. We were not pinned like butterflies to a corkboard, being watched by millions, but simply sitting there on the couch talking to Johnny, who was talking to us as if it were the simplest thing in the world.

Carson's gifts were limitless. His skits and his characters, his slapstick and gags and funny hats and costumes, came from inexhaustible comic energy, but he never overplayed his hand. He was cool beyond cool. He made Sinatra seem to be trying too hard.
He will be sorely missed.
posted by Vidiot at 2:34 PM on January 23, 2005


But she understood that people wanted to say something to express sympathy,

Agreed, obviously, but this isn't real life. There is no one's family here wondering what you think and you are not soothing anyone with your kind dots, it's sheer vanity.

I guess we could all argue it in meta again, but judging by the quantity of punctuation so far, I guess it's a tradition we want to keep. I'll be quiet now.
posted by milovoo at 2:36 PM on January 23, 2005


Agreed, obviously, but this isn't real life. There is no one's family here wondering what you think and you are not soothing anyone with your kind dots, it's sheer vanity.

or us expressing a sense of loss, which is what I was getting at in my second paragraph.

But both of us are correct, sir...
posted by jonmc at 2:40 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by bshort at 3:17 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by reality at 3:23 PM on January 23, 2005


!?
posted by o0o0o at 3:23 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by btwillig at 3:27 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by mrbula at 3:35 PM on January 23, 2005


My favorite was with a 5-year-old or so Joey Lawrence as a guest. Johnny prompted him with a "So, you've seen this show before? Your mom let you stay up late?"
And the kid says something like, "Yeah, I was watching the show and then I got sick and was throwing up..." and the audience and McMahon lost it--sounded like the show was so bad he was throwing up.

Johnny just stared expressionless at the camera during the uproar. I'll see if I can find a link, it's funnier than I make it sound.

RIP, Johnny.
posted by zardoz at 3:45 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by Eideteker at 3:55 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by First Post at 3:58 PM on January 23, 2005


Rest in peace, Johnny. The copper clappers are tolling for thee.
posted by Oriole Adams at 4:02 PM on January 23, 2005


Sis boom bah.
posted by plinth at 4:02 PM on January 23, 2005


What is the sound of a sheep exploding?

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posted by plinth at 4:03 PM on January 23, 2005


You know, the second to the last Carson episode of "The Tonight Show," with Bette Midler singing to him, was one of the most moving nights of TV ever. I hadn't been into him during his last couple of years, but I watched his last six months or so and kept asking myself "why did I stop watching this?"

He set the standard. Has anyone else come close?
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:04 PM on January 23, 2005


I remember when the Tonight Show moved permanently from New York to Los Angeles. It was the first time I started thinking of California as a 'real place' having any significance at all.

Johnny had a warmth, sincerity, and grace unmatched by anyone in the media before or after. Somehow he was able to allow his guests to shine without needing to control them in any overt way, without apparently concerning himself with his own feelings or guarding his own ego. A humble man of great inter-personal talent in an ultra-egoistic business. Rare indeed.

I was sad when he retired and am sad again today.

RIP, Johnny.
posted by scheptech at 4:08 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by TwelveTwo at 4:15 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by malaprohibita at 4:30 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by Crackerbelly at 4:39 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by mrplab at 4:56 PM on January 23, 2005


When I was young, being allowed to stay up and watch Johnny on the Tonight Show was truly a rite of passage.

My mental image of him will always be with some wild animal perched on his head.
posted by tommasz at 5:03 PM on January 23, 2005


He was the master of that knowing, not-quite dead-pan look at the camera. He could get more laugh with The Look than others could do in an hour show. He made you feel like you were in on the joke.

I was literally raised on Carson. He hosted a daytime show in the early 60's ("Who Do You Trust") that I used to watch when I got home from school. I miss him.
posted by groundhog at 5:04 PM on January 23, 2005


The Memphis bluesman Furry Lewis had a part in Burt Reynolds's W. W. and the Dixie Dance Kings and from this got an invite to the Tonight Show. Johnny asked Furry if he was married and Furry's response was Why should I marry when the man next door to me's got a wife? Now I wish that and Mississippi John Hurt's Tonight Show appearance were on tape somewhere.
posted by y2karl at 5:26 PM on January 23, 2005


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Does anyone know if any channel is broadcasting a 'Best Of' soon? The few minutes that I have caught so far, are more of an overall tribute.
posted by Gyan at 5:26 PM on January 23, 2005


right now CNN's repeating a Larry King with McMahon and tons of clips. I'm sure NBC will do a special tribute too.
posted by amberglow at 5:43 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by whatideserve at 5:45 PM on January 23, 2005


I'm at a loss for words. He was a great guy and a true talent... so sad.
posted by kartooner at 5:56 PM on January 23, 2005


Goodnight Johnny and thanks for everything.

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posted by blackturtleneck at 6:02 PM on January 23, 2005


Holds envelope to forehead, concentrates, rips end of envelope, blows in envelope, pulls out slip of paper and reads out loud:

"Sis Boom Bah"

(That was one of my all time Carnac favourites, aural timeline be damned.)

Johnny was just was one of those American myths to me when I was growing up in Montreal, like those fast food places nowhere near our home. Then, in 1975, we moved to Toronto -- right next door to a McDonalds -- and got cable TV, and suddenly American tv was much more than a single snowy CBS affiliate from a border town in Vermont. Johnny and his guests in those horrid 70s suits, those rainbow curtains, the cheesey goodness of Ed and Tommy -- I was suddenly immersed in the fondue pot of popular American culture at the same time I was turning to alternative radio, then punk. I still remember squinting at the tiny rented tv to catch Reiner Schwarz on the local public access station at 11, then Johnny at 11:30. It all worked.

Bye, Johnny. Damn it, 80 was too young.
posted by maudlin at 6:03 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by bz at 6:28 PM on January 23, 2005


"Zippity doo dah."

(What should you do if your doo dah is open?)
posted by SPrintF at 6:38 PM on January 23, 2005


"So what do you have for us, Johnny? A few jokes, maybe a little song or two?"

"Well, actually, I thought I'd twirl this 1987 Buick over my head..."
posted by arto at 6:40 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by Jumpin Jack Flash at 6:46 PM on January 23, 2005


Throughout college, when my insomnia was at its worst, Johnny Carson was the one who kept me company on the nights when my roommates banished me to the living room with warnings to keep quiet or else. So I'd watch Johnny with headphones on, chuckling up my sleeve, and I'd feel better about being awake against my will in the warm glow of electric light featuring my late night friend.

RIP, you fine man. And thank you so very much.
posted by Dreama at 6:49 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by newfers at 7:02 PM on January 23, 2005


Funniest Tonight Show childhood memory that is very fuzzy now: In the early 80's, Johnny had Albert Brooks on, who claimed to do a ventriloquist act. Albert whipped out a Speak-N-Spell with a face drawn on the back and Mr Potato Head limbs glued on it. The face side was aimed at the camera giving him access to the buttons while he spoke. He started into an act with the using the device to answer his questions along the lines of.

AB:"Greetings"
SnS: "L...O..."
AB:"So, I heard youve been to Mexico, did you have a good time?"
SnS: "C"
AB:"Oh my goodness, what are doing on my leg"
SnS:"P...P..."
AB:"Thats disgusting! Who taught you such bad manners?!"
SnS: "U"

Anyway, after 20 years I don't remember most if it and Im sure its not as hilarious now but it made me a fan of his show from then on.
posted by ernie at 7:05 PM on January 23, 2005


You were correct, sir.
posted by cortex at 7:08 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by yhbc at 7:11 PM on January 23, 2005


MSNBC.com says, the day he left the "Tonight Show" was the day that television died.

I wonder how that makes NBC talent Jay Leno feel...


I assigned and edited the piece in question. If Jay calls me to complain, I'll let you know.
posted by GaelFC at 7:21 PM on January 23, 2005


When I saw in this thread that Plinth quoted my favorite Carson punchline ever (Sis boom bah) I was totally floored. It's one of those things that you don't expect anybody else to remember (especially since there were so many great Carson lines over the years). I did a Google search and found out there's even a Wiki mention of it. And now I'm finding out it's a much beloved joke of his.

I'm looking forward to the Carson clip shows that will continue to be shown for the next few weeks - but I really wish somebody would just rerun the whole episodes. Those killer clips are great, but I'd love to see the pacing of the whole show again. Especially from the 90 minute format when you could get Albert Brooks, Petula Clark, Joan Embrey, James Coco, and Gladys Knight and the Pips all on one show! Check out some of the crazy guest line ups over the years.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 7:29 PM on January 23, 2005


I'd love to see Totie Fields and Tiny Tim. : >
posted by amberglow at 7:35 PM on January 23, 2005


First, I second Slack-a-gogo's motion to rerun the entire shows on some network.

Secondly, a bit of advice... you may be moved to seek out a published biography of Mr. Carson. You may then read that he was cold and calculating, with little regard for those that should seemingly have been close to him. My advice is, pay such words little heed. No unauthorized biography can ever present the whole picture, and even if it's accurate, so what? He did for 30 years what he was paid to do: entertain us. He owes us nothing more.
posted by evilcolonel at 7:58 PM on January 23, 2005


He was a part of my youth ... I will always remember his deadpan humor and gracious manner with guests ... today's talk-show hosts cannot compare .... good night, Johnny.
posted by terrier319 at 8:03 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by me3dia at 8:07 PM on January 23, 2005


I betcha TVLand will start running them at 11:30.
posted by amberglow at 8:07 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by chicobangs at 8:17 PM on January 23, 2005


I was suddenly immersed in the fondue pot of popular American culture at the same time I was turning to alternative radio, then punk.

"Lots of pizza, ice cold Cokes/Johnny Carson telling jokes/And lots and lots of American good good girls....I Stand Tall/ I Stand Proud Of What I Am"

-- The Dictators, "I Stand Tall"
posted by jonmc at 8:29 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by LeeJay at 8:41 PM on January 23, 2005


I betcha TVLand will start running them at 11:30.

It would pain Letterman no end to be competing against his late mentor and friend, and on another network owned by the same conglomerate yet (Viacom).

But yes, I too would love to see the old shows in their entirety. The chopped and syndicated "Carson's Comedy Classics" were not as good.

I remember that one time in the early 90s, when Johnny was still hosting, one night they replayed an old show from about 20 years earlier, with no explanation. It was great.
posted by pmurray63 at 8:44 PM on January 23, 2005


My favorite Carson moments were when he had 'everyman' type guests as opposed to celebrities.

I remember one lady who was brought on to demonstrate some gardening tips. The elderly matronly lady scolded Johnny several times like a school marm, prompting a few of those classic looks from Johnny.

At one point she broke a clay pot with a hammer to put the clay pieces in with the potting soil (to aid drainage, or some such thing). She passed Johnny the hammer to break one more pot and, as I remember it, he broke every pot on the stage effectively ending the lady's demonstration -all the while acting as if it was a simple misunderstanding and grinning impishly. Funnier in the seeing than the re-telling.
posted by MotorNeuron at 8:47 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by dchase at 8:55 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by Lex Tangible at 9:18 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by goofyfoot at 9:22 PM on January 23, 2005


Carson was quick witted, and more intelligent than he chose to appear (he had often read the books by his guests, while the supposedly intellectual Dick Cavett often didn't do so).
As someone commented, he was even funnier when his lines bombed.
And he knew when to shut up, unlike Leno, who seems to think that a punch line is funnier when you repeat it.
posted by QuietDesperation at 9:33 PM on January 23, 2005


A class act all the way.

I remember when he used to babysit the kids. Well not really, but insofar as we sat them in front of the TV while we went out to the bar to drink.

I'll miss him.
posted by mazola at 9:41 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by miss lynnster at 9:47 PM on January 23, 2005


Former NBC Page Kevin Marousek describes his small contribution to the Carson legacy.
posted by calwatch at 10:04 PM on January 23, 2005


SCATTERED THOUGHTS AND MEMORIES.

I REALLY-REALLY-REALLY wish local newspaper would quite chirping the same inane line about Carson's "Nebraskan Values". Last time I checked, Nebraska resembled a giant daycare center with a cadre of lawmakers trying to legislate adult behavior and a citizenry happily lining up to cash in their freedoms. We're a backward state where dirt farmers routinely shafted by the Right wing still vote them into office in avalanches, where money is poured into a losing football program at the same time the university itself is reduced to a trade-school, and torch-waving peasants chase truly creative people (like Carson) OUT of the state. [soapbox: off]

I recall a rumor at the University -- a tale that might be apocryphal -- about Carson having written an undergrate thesis on "Comedy Writing". Said paper is supposed to be filed away in the stacks of Love Library somewhere (some accounts say the Historical Society has it). I never had any luck tracking it down. Always wanted to ask him if it was true or not.

Carson is FAR more generous than anyone realizes. I heard it once said about Carson that he lived by the precept: "God remembers what you forget." when it comes to charity -- and never makes a big deal about it. Granted, his numerous open contributions to charities in Lincoln and Norfolk are a matter of record and a cynic might even say these were more for the IRS than for the soul -- but I have first-hand knowledge of a whole level of quiet philanthropy that will never reach the papers.

Don Rickles was on fire the first time he appeared on the show. He killed the audience and Carson himself was still convulsing when Rickles (with a really pained and sour look) took his guest seat for the first time. Carson tried to say something. Rickles cut him off: "Shut up, dummy." Rickles rolled his eyes, turned to the audience and said: "Man makes a million dollars a year and his parents are back in Nebraska eating locusts." Carson was hyperventilating.

Years later, I recall a favorite episode where Carson was complaining that Rickles (who had guest-hosted the night before) had broken his coffee cup. It so happened that Rickles was then filming his own sitcom ("CPO Sharky") ... and it further happened that the actual filming was just down the hall from Carson's studio. So, Johnny gets up to confront Rickles and charges through the red-lit door and onto the set of Rickles show -- interrupting the taping and startling Rickles so much that he he couldn't speak for several moments. Might have been staged, but Rickles isn't THAT good of an actor. He was genuinely shocked.

Longest sustained laugh in TV history (up to that time) was when ancient character actor Burt Mustin explained to Johnny the trick to successful ice-fishing by saying: "Mrfffer-umfppf-fhrmb-puh." Johnny did his patented double -take. Mustin mimed like his mouth was full and he spit it into his hands: "I said: 'Ya gotta keep the worms warm."

Robin Williams utterly eviserated Bob Hope in front of Carson on the show -- but he did it with such a light touch and such wit that the clearly annoyed Hope was helpless to respond. Carson probably "could" have stepped in, but he was pretty much bowled over and let Williams have free reign. Amazing moment in television. (Specifically: Hope was droning on supporting the latest Reagan mischief abroad, overstating the threat of Gaddafi and patting himself on the back for bravely performing on a ship off of Libya during some crisis. Williams kept rolling his eyes and tossing in lines like: "Big deal ... they buy their military from Sears.")
posted by RavinDave at 10:53 PM on January 23, 2005


.

Good to see it wasn't just my favorite.

Johnny, you will be missed.
posted by Space Kitty at 10:59 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by mdeatherage at 11:22 PM on January 23, 2005


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posted by mach at 11:36 PM on January 23, 2005


Johnny was the best.

Great Carson memory: I have this clip pulled from a TONIGHT SHOW from the 70s when Ed showed up drunk to work. So Ed slurs his announcements, and slurs through the "Heeeerr's Johnny." And Carson doesn't comment. At first. Instead he just delivers the jokes, throwing in a few subtle jabs that were playful and (for the time) edgy. But by the end of the monologue, it was Ed joke after Ed joke. It was great.

They come back from the break, and Ed tries to start a conversation. Johnny just stops Ed and asks, "You really think you're fooling everyone, don't you?" He later offers to get Ed a cot for the remainder of the show.

It was a great moment, handled with comedic perfection. It won't show up on any retrospective, but Carson killed that night.
posted by herc at 12:18 AM on January 24, 2005


To be more exact and to say more than "."... My hero died.
posted by TwelveTwo at 1:22 AM on January 24, 2005


There's a toilet paper shortage in Heaven tonight.
posted by RavinDave at 1:34 AM on January 24, 2005


..........
posted by illhelpu at 1:57 AM on January 24, 2005


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posted by xammerboy at 5:46 AM on January 24, 2005


If you can, pick up a copy of Life Stories: Profiles from The New Yorker. It contains a wonderful (and lengthy) profile of Carson from 1978, written by Kenneth Tynan. It's called "Fifteen Years of the Salto Mortale" and unfortunately it doesn't appear to be online.

What is online is a searchable database of every guest who appeared on “The Tonight Show” during Johnny’s 30-year reign.
posted by Tin Man at 7:31 AM on January 24, 2005


"i remember Carol Wayne the best, but Teri Garr did a bunch too, no?"

Teresa Ganzel did it for many years towards the end...
posted by Ben Grimm at 7:36 AM on January 24, 2005


In an odd coincidence, I checked out his biography from the library Saturday morning.

He greatly influenced my sense of humor. RIP Johnny.
posted by m@ at 8:14 AM on January 24, 2005


ahh, thanks Ben--it must have been Ganzel--she was goofier and less chesty than Wayne, right?

It's terrible that Carson and Joan Rivers never made up--she was saying on tv last night that when he hung up on her when she told him she was going to Fox for her own show was the last time they ever spoke. She should have been given the show instead of Leno, i think.
posted by amberglow at 10:17 AM on January 24, 2005


My favorite moment wasn't the Tonight Show itself, but the practical joke show that Carson produced for NBC sometime in the early 80s. He rebroadcast an old BBC joke segment about the Great Spaghetti Harvests of Switzerland. My mom taped it and played it for my grade school class that April Fool's Day (she was our parent volunteer and did this with my teacher's cooperation). Most of my class thought it was the real McCoy, though it's not that tough to put one over on third-graders.

God, the looks on everyone's faces when Mrs. Winkler and my mom said, "April Fool's!"

That show taught me that the best comedy is presenting an absurd situation with a straight face. Thanks, Johnny.
posted by RakDaddy at 10:27 AM on January 24, 2005


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posted by mygoditsbob at 4:32 PM on January 24, 2005


I knew I was a "grown up" when I was finally allowed to stay up to watch his monologue.

When he retired I stopped regularly watching late night television. Dave is funny at times, but once Johnny's in your heart everyone else is just a guest host.
posted by ?! at 9:24 PM on January 24, 2005


How many of you would sneak out of bed to watch as a child? My parents finally gave up putting me to bed before he was on. Although Leno has his moments, Johnny ruled. He'll be missed.
posted by monkeyhead at 8:03 PM on January 26, 2005


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posted by KerPow at 10:05 AM on February 9, 2005


Johnny Carson:
An Anti-Eulogy

posted by jaronson at 5:02 PM on February 12, 2005


Man, I'm still broken up about Mr. Rogers.
posted by nanojath at 9:27 PM on February 22, 2005


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