Sunday, January 23, 2005

Johnny Carson, RIP

Johnny Carson was 79 and hadn't been reported in good health in some time. I suppose this news shouldn't have shocked me, but it did.

Mark Evanier's column, Johnny, sums it up amazingly well for me. The thing that strikes me from this is, "If the guest was funny, Johnny could work straight and set the other guy up for the laughs. If the guest wasn't funny, he could slide effortlessly into the other role. Most of those who have hosted talk shows can do one but not the other, and some aren't even willing to not be the funny one. All Johnny cared about was that the show was entertaining. If people went to bed chuckling at the guest, not at him, that was just fine."

But it wasn't even just with funny stories. Johnny made every interview come across effortless. He always presented questions that led into people's anecdotes in such a natural manner that felt like a normal conversation. All the host that have followed, each with differing levels of success of their own, but none able to touch his ability to handle that part of the format, just demonstrates exactly how amazing this talent really was.

Roger Ebert's In memory of Johnny Carson tells a lot about the experience of being on Johnny's Tonight Show. It's amazingly similar to what I would have imagined.

As a child who grew up with dreams of fame, I, of course, imagined joining Johnny onstage. That dream died in May of 1992, but this still seems ever so much more final.

Johnny was the king. This is very sad.

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