The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson
Because my last post for the meme was full of hate, this one is full of love, but also longing and nostalgia.
I miss Johnny Carson like I miss my father, and watching Johnny was definitely a thing I did with Daddy. Mommy is a lark and Daddy was a night-owl and staying up to watch Johnny was a way of being like my father. Daddy loved Johnny, so I loved Johnny.
It's been 22 years and I still miss Johnny Carson hosting the tonight show. I miss hearing the theme, and Ed's voice and seeing Johnny come out in a sports jacket and doing the monologue. As much as I've loved some stand-up comedians who do topical humor, I will never love anyone the way I loved Johnny's monologue. (Jon Stewart comes close.) The way he could be mock either side and still be gentle. The double takes. The reactions when a joke died. Making fun of Ed and Doc or Tommy Newsome. There was a fore-taste of the snark that would come to dominate all forms of media in the Post-Johnny world, but Johnny was never truly out to make someone look stupid. Even if sometimes they were. I think he even had a certain amount of affection for Floyd Turbo, American.
A lot of the post-first commercial bits were hit or miss, but I can still watch an Art Fern Tea-Time Movie bit and laugh at the "fork in the road." I loved "Stump The Band" and OMG, I loved Carnac, the Magnificent. "May a carsick mongoose change the color of your seats. "
I used to fall in love Stand-up comics, just from seeing them on the Tonight Show and can still remember certain punchlines. David Brenner. Bill Maher before he got really bitter. Robert Klein.
I fell in love with Steve Lawrence from seeing him and Johnny goof around and with Robert Goulet when couldn't get through a song without cracking up and Johnny made it worse.
Even the "promoting your movie" interviews somehow seemed better than the barely-there tripe that passes for it these days. If you watch the clips, there's just something there. The only one who even comes close (again) is Jon Stewart, who I really consider Johnny's spiritual successor, but Jon is not Johnny. Jon can be angry and partisan in a way Johnny never was. Mind you, 9 times out of 10 I agree with what Jon is angry about, but it's a different experience.
Johnny managed to be funny in a soothing way WITHOUT being boring pablum. Sorry Jay, David, Jimmy, Jimmy, Arsenio, Conan and anyone who's ever tried to sit behind a desk, but you are just not Johnny. (Dennis Miller gets no apology, but I'm trying to keep hatred out of this post.)
That last week got a little maudlin, but it had totally been earned. When Bette sang "Here's That Rainy Day," which was Johnny's favorite song, it was probably the best moment she ever had on television.
Of all the shows I have or will talk about in this meme, I can't think of one that I think back on with as much affection and that brought me as much joy and about which I, Miss Bitter and Cynical and Bitchy herself look back on with virtually no "rage moments" what so ever.
To quote a Kurt Weill/Berthold Brecht line: "You're still my love Johnny, like the day we met, Johnny!"