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Conan / Leno – The Carson Tonight Show – My Take



I grew up watching The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson nightly with my grandmum. The Tonight Show is the third longest-running entertainment program in U.S. television history. DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT THAT MEANS? This WAS, The Show of Shows.

The Tonight Show was something you watched ready for bed on the West Coast in
your pajamas. It didnt matter whether you watched it in black and white or color.
Those rich heavy curtains opened to the blasting of Doc Severinson’s Trumpet and
Johnny would step forth as the greatest Ambassador of comedy and immaculate class
from the curtains. You waited with baited breath on the next line Johnny would
deliver. If the joke sucked he’d try and let you know. He was a gentleman in a suit
and if anything, he exemplified what you’d like to be as man when you grew up.

He exuded class, showmanship, entertainment. For 30 years, he was rich, top
notch TV. Its was like having Champagne before going to bed. You dreamed of
smiles. Whatever happened that day, no matter how bad, Johnny made it funny
and your troubles could always wait for tomorrow. He was an American staple and
an entertainment standard, like no other.

When Johnny Carson was done, it was the signal to goto bed. Johnny Carson
revolutionalized the comedic business. Carson could be coy and elusive at the same
time. You knew what he said and you knew he would have said more
at the time, if he could. It was almost if he was saying sometimes, someone will be
able to get away with this someday, but I’m going to say it. But you’ll still know
what I mean. Class Act. Putting it in such a way that people will still get the
inferenced joke, but damned if I cant say it out loud now. You knew what Carson
meant. You could see the illicit joke in his warm, devilish eyes and witty smile.


He brought semantics, class and style on where to deliver a punchline and be
funny to an audience. Ask a comedian, Carson rewrote The Book. Johnny Carson
innovated and created some of the funniest bits that inspired a generation
of comedians. He opened the door to showcase some of the funniest comedians
of Historic Television. He brought on people that he well knew would catch him hell,
like Don Rickles. Johnny knew Don would tear him up but knew how funny and
invaluable he was. Johnny took on NBC and the Affiliates and stood his ground and won.

Truly, Joan Rivers should have gotten The Tonight Show after Johnny but that time
was a different era. David Letterman also should have gotten the Tonight Show. David
was innovative and edgy and Jay Leno was the safe easy ass kiss replacement. Rather
than losing control of the show to an innovator like David Letterman, the powers that be
felt it was easier to get a “rank and file” in, like Jay Leno in a time where it was more
important to maintain the status quo.

I quit watching Leno and saw him as a scripted, routine, copied, part duex of Johnny Carson.
I tuned in many times trying Leno, but had grown up on Dave Letterman and the edgy shows
he allowed like guests Howard Stern and Sam Kinison. Dave wasnt afraid to take on NBC and
you loved him more for the “establishment” fight. Jay Leno sucked so much NBC, you could
see the spelling of NBC down his long chin and throat. All you could hear was safe, safe,
safe jokes, all dumbed down, all pretentious and level, marketed to sheep.

Leno is like the worst of movie sequals, played down and to an almost Alzheimer old Johnny
Carson audience of safe, but stale old jokes and routines. The comedic retarded, who thinks
he is funny when his jokes are bastardarized simplicity. It became a show of cheap sucker
laughs brought on by the audience of laugh tracks and rip offs from the Howard Stern Show
all the way to hiring Stuttering John for the numbers. Pathetic. Lenos funniest bits, the
misprinted or photoshoped newspaper ads, how sad and un-original. Really you couldnt
re-think Carson? How sad Jay.

Conan O’Brian had innovated and made funny, Talk Show TV once again. Edgy, raw, unpredicted,
just like Dave had in the 80’s, you never knew what the next moment he would bring, the
Network be damned. When NBC realized The Tonight Show original audience has finally died
or reached comatose, they brought in Conan for 2009. Audiences where dying under Leno
scriped tonality.

From the first show, I Tivo’d Conan, it was original again. I was relieved to start watching
The Tonight Show. It was the old but new again. It was “out there,” still classy but edgy
and it was unscripted, unabased entertainment again. I couldnt tell you what I’d see next,
unlike Leno. I’ve watched it religiously ever since. It was the old Carson, joking about the
NBC issues and pushing the envelope while still holding to the old hallmarks like animals on the show.

Leno failed at The Leno Show. Wow ANYONE could’ve predicted that DUH!!! Leno re-running
The Tonight Show? You would honestly be better served the reanimated corpse of
Jack Benny or Jack Paar.

I wish the best for Conan and when you look back, this guy will have the last laugh.
Johnny is rolling over in his grave. Fuck NBC and that Zucker. You’ve bastardized the
greatest show in TV history all the way back to Gleason you shits. I am deeply ashamed
for the lot of you. Thanks for nailing the final coffin of TV.

UPDATE: In the end NBC endeared Conan to his future audience and probably shackled Leno with the negativity of it all.
Chris Voss


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