January 23, 2005

RIP Johnny Carson

I came late to the table as a Johnny Carson fan.

When I was a kid, Carson had a big strike against him; he was the show my friends' parents watched. So uncool.

That, and I never really watched much TV as a kid, even through college. It wasn't until after college, when I had a schedule and a TV of my own, that I occasionally flipped on the Tonight Show, and saw what all the fuss had been about. From then - probably '86 until Carson signed off as the show's host in '92 - Carson was an intermittent pleasure, but a pleasure nonetheless:

His quickness and his ability to handle an audience were impressive. When his jokes missed their target, the smooth Carson won over a groaning studio audience with a clever look or sly, self-deprecating remark.
As someone who started in broadcasting, looking the fractiousness and factionalization and decentralization of the modern media (of which this blog is an enthusiastic part), seeing the breadth of Carson's influence at his peak is an amazing time capsule:
Politics provided monologue fodder for him as he skewered lawmakers of every stripe, mirroring the mood of voters. His Watergate jabs at President Nixon were seen as cementing Nixon's fall from office in 1974.

He made presidential history again in July 1988 when he had then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton (news - web sites) on his show a few days after Clinton came under widespread ridicule for a boring speech at the Democratic National Convention. Clinton traded quips with Carson and played "Summertime" on the saxophone in what was hailed as a stunning comeback.

Carson died today at age 79.

UPDATE: Lists of other blogs on Carson's passing found here and here.

Posted by Mitch at January 23, 2005 06:41 PM | TrackBack

Next MOB, I'll buy you a few drinks.

Posted by: Martin Andrade at January 23, 2005 05:32 PM

...In honor of Johnny Carson and in memory of happier days as well as the days ahead.

Posted by: Martin Andrade at January 23, 2005 05:39 PM
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