"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Monday, January 24, 2005

Gen-X Carson React

Yes, there is no news today. Blogging is at an absolute standstill. Thus, for the first time (I think), I go into celebrity commentary.

Johnny Carson is memorable to me for a few reasons. The first is sartorial. The man wore the tightest cut sportcoats I've ever seen. Though he was reed slender, his sportcoats were always very closely fitted to his shoulders, chest, and waist. My father used to complain about a salesman at a men's store who got him to buy a suit that was far too tight by pushing it as being "Johnny Carson style."

Second, I reflect on the guests of Carson's show. Except for new comedians, I always recognized the guests on The Tonite Show. I am thoroughly convinced there were far fewer celebrities back then so that it was possible to know them all. It makes sense. You had three channels and the movies for most of the run. Very different from today's celeb universe where you could never watch MTV and consequently not know many apparently "famous persons."

Third, is his significance as a cultural marker. For many of us, Carson signaled forbidden territory. Bedtime occurred well before Ed made the big introduction, so to actually see Johnny on screen or hear the monologue seemed like a great privilege, even if you didn't get the jokes.

Fourth, is the Letterman-Leno fiasco that followed Johnny's retirement. I'm a Letterman guy. I just find him more entertaining. Can't be helped. He is the natural heir. Neither Carson nor Letterman were classic stand-up comedy guys like Leno, who could jump right back into standing in front of a brick wall with "The Improv" in neon. Both Johnny and Dave easily got as many laughs from their mannerisms or reaction to telling a lame joke as they did from punchlines.

Letterman also has a natural "in" with people in my age group (late 20's to early to mid 30's). His original show following Carson was arguably the best and most original thing on television many nights of the week. The Top Ten List is still one of the better gags around. Plus, he captured the 80's beautifully with his curly, disheveled hair and sportcoats worn with basketball sneakers. You can still watch those shows today and get a tremendous charge of nostalgia. I'm not sure you'll be able to say that about anything associated with Jay Leno, who is apparently a very nice and funny guy.

3 comments:

Greg said...

The Top Ten List is still one of the better gags around.Hmmm... Hunter, I hate to differ on such a trivial point, but I've found that in an average Letterman Top Ten, one joke's good, two or three are okay, and the rest are pathetic. Am I in the minority on this? =)

Both Johnny and Dave easily got as many laughs from their mannerisms or reaction to telling a lame joke as they did from punchlines.Admittedly, I never saw Johnny Carson "back in the day," and I haven't watched Leno or Letterman in the past 3 or 4 months. However, I have observed both Leno and Letterman quite a bit over the years. I've found that Leno also has a special talent for getting laughs even when a joke bombs.

While I prefer Leno to Letterman, one of my biggest complaints of Leno would be how he constantly makes fun of Kevin Eubanks. That gets old fast!

Okay, that's my two cents on this very important topic. =)

Evanston said...

Letterman is more appealing. You WANT him to be funny. But sadly, he has "lost it" since the '80s except for a brief period after he got aced out of the Tonight Show and enjoyed his new digs at CBS. He seemed to have some energy then...now he's just sorta antsy-looking, more pitiful than funny.

Kathy Hutchins said...

now he's just sorta antsy-looking, more pitiful than funny.

It's my experience that men from Indiana don't wear well as they age. Bill Hudnut, Bill Ruckleshaus, heck, even Dick Lugar is a fright these days. If Evan Bayh doesn't get the VP slot in 2008 it'll be too late for him, he'll be an annoying old geezer by 2012. That is one of the reasons why, despite being proud of my Hoosier heritage and upbringing, I married a guy from California.