In addition to sharing their memories of Carson, the subjects often (and understandably) delve into their own careers, which makes for a whole even more enjoyable layer of entertainment than I ever expected.
To mark the anniversary of Groucho Marx’s death (August 19, 1977), I ran across this clip from 1968 of Marx roasting Johnny Carson. At one point (around 4:20), he makes a joke about the mayor of New York. The guy laughing next to Carson is then New York City Mayor John Lindsay.
I am so glad that Johnny Carson was smart enough to get ownership/control of his Tonight Show run. Earlier this year, the folks managing Carson’s media properties started posting YouTube clips from a variety of Tonight Show moments (152 videos to date). The videos cover a variety of celebrities and topics. But for me, the best discovery so far is this 1991 David Letterman appearance, where Carson how Letterman feels about Jay Leno being named to replace Carson. But Carson being Carson, he asks the question in his own unique way.
The mutual admiration the two men had for each other is obvious in this clip.
Johnny Carson tells a personal story from when he was 17, partially in tribute to Orson Welles, again courtesy of the gang at AFI.
I love how the Daily Show has trended towards doing extended interviews that are posted in the site’s Green Room. This week they had a two–parter with comedic legend and new novelist Albert (2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America) Brooks. In the second part, its amazing to see host Jon Stewart in absolute worship mode and getting Brooks to talk about his lucky break on Johnny Carson (Brooks wanted to be on Dick Cavett, but they did not want him, believe it or not). Watch and be amazed.
Comedy is an art and seeing these two talk, however brief it may be, gives a glimpse of some of the history.
The past few days have included two of my interviews running at Robot 6. In the first one, I got a chance to speak with Shawn Martinbrough, about both his book How to Draw Noir Comics: The Art and Technique of Visual Storytelling as well his current work on Marvel’s Luke Cage Noir. Then yesterday, I enjoyed a discussion with writer Christopher Yost on his writing of DC Comics’ Red Robin series.
In other news, I’m working on more pop culture interviews for this fine blog. Until the Internet logistical stars align and I have some new interviews to run, I will try to boost the level of unique content I have at this site. With the recent upgrade, I find it much easier to update the blog and give it the look I prefer.
I was never a fan of Jay Leno’s Tonight Show. When he retired, and Conan O’Brien took over, it was the first time I could watch it since the retirement of the late, great Johnny Carson. I sincerely doubt I could objectively review an episode of Leno’s new show. Heck I cannot even bring myself to link to it in this post. My personal dislike of Leno originates with his late former manager, Helen Kushnick. As amazingly detailed in Bill Carter’s The Late Shift: Letterman, Leno, and the Network Battle for the Night, Kushnick set the wheels in motion for Johnny Carson’s early retirement and for Leno to take his place.
Leno always claimed he never knew the mercenary tactics and stunts she pulled to get Leno where he wanted to be. But really, Leno avoided knowing about her methods until her conduct got so out of control that NBC had to fire her. In my mind, Letterman should have been the only one to replace Carson. And as evidenced by the fact that Carson never again appeared on the Tonight Show, but made appearances on Letterman’s CBS show, that’s what Carson thought as well. I always loved that toward the end of his life, Carson actually started writing jokes for Letterman’s monologue. Letterman waited (in accordance with Carson’s wishes one assumes) until after Carson’s passing to acknowledge this arrangement.
Anyways, I think I’ve established I’m no fan of Leno’s. So it warmed my heart to read the following line in LA Times TV critic Mary McNamara’s review of the first episode: “It’s not a good sign when the Bud Light commercial is funnier than the comedy show it interrupts.”
On another note, in double-checking Kushnick’s spelling of her name, I ran across this amazing EW piece by Dana Kennedy about Kushnick’s final years (she died in 1996)–where to her credit she made peace with family and friends from whom she’d been estranged for many years. For years, I always regard Kushnick only in terms of her conduct managing Leno, so to see her in this light (as a genuine person, not just an entertainment executive) was valuable perspective.