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1.23.2005

Johnny Carson, 1925 - 2005

"For three days after death, hair and fingernails continue to grow but phone calls taper off." - Johnny Carson



As I write this, I have a small lump in my throat. I just watched a little piece they ran about him on KTVU, our local Fox affiliate, and I smiled through the whole thing. They played a clip from a show from October 16, 1987, that I totally remembered seeing as a 17 year-old high school senior, and laughing at hysterically. I googled it, and (unsurprisingly) other people remembered it as well.

From nostalgiacentral.com:

A typical Carson moment occurred on October 16, 1987. Carson always took a special delight in people with eccentric hobbies, and on this night he had a guest named Myrtle Young from Fort Wayne, Indiana, whose hobby was collecting potato chips that looked like other objects - an angry dog, a sleeping bird, a candle . . .

While Myrtle proudly showed off her fine (and fragile) collection, Ed McMahon distracted her momentarily and as she was turned away there was a resounding "crunch" from Carson. All eyes turned to the host who has just bitten into a potato chip!

Myrtle is in a state of shock, clutching her chest with her mouth agape and her eyes wide with shock and betrayal. How could Johnny munch one of her works of art?!? Ever the grand-master of timing, Carson allowed the gag to play out for a while before assuring Myrtle and reaching down to hold up a big bowl of chips he had behind his desk in preparation for the prank. The laughter went on for several minutes.


Trust me, I laughed for longer than several minutes. It was probably one of the funniest things I had ever seen on television in my young life.

I remember sitting on the sofa in our tiny TV room in my pajamas with my parents when I was a kid, watching his monologue. They let me stay up and watch it before I went to bed during the summer, and I watched him well into my teens and early twenties until his last show in May of 1992 (with Robin Williams and Bette Midler). On that particular night, I wasn't sitting on my parents' sofa...rather, I was in a barracks dayroom at Keesler AFB, Mississippi.

I was always intrigued by his uncanny sense of timing and self-depreciating humor. He influenced me more than I realized at the time...people tell my my sense of comic timing is impeccable, even when the joke I'm telling is horrible (or incredibly offensive...they're the only kind of jokes I know).

I give Johnny all the credit.

Much thanks to kirkkirsch, where I first saw that Johnny quote.

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6 Comments:

At 02:32, Blogger dAAve said...

I'm totally with you Chad. I watched him for all of his 30 years. I was 8 in 1962. He did over 4500 shows; I may have watched 3500 of them live. I KNOW that he was quite influential in my development.

I certainly can't think of any performer today who could have that much influence on me.

Thanks.

 
At 11:31, Blogger Dantallion said...

Ah, Chad, this is such a great post. Carson is, far and away, the greatest of the legends of entertainment. Great not only for his pure talent, but also for his sincerity, generosity, kindness, and warmth. Many have one or more of these qualities. Very few have all of them. He really was the genuine article, and I got a lump in my throat when i heard the news.

 
At 13:03, Blogger wah said...

grrr. wouldn't let me post annannymousely.
(i don't never ever use my blogger)
anyways, whenever i saw johnny carson
on repeats, he seemed nice. leno
seems like aa @$$hole. letterman, meh.
i like conan, he's so weird. carson r.i.p.
love, wah

 
At 15:09, Blogger jdubbs said...

The AP has an article on that very woman...

 
At 20:43, Blogger Stop touchin my blog! said...

Herrrrrrrres Johnny.

He was a legend fo shizz.

:)

 
At 19:51, Blogger Recycled Soul said...

Hey man, great blog.

Johnny was an inspiration to many of us. I was just a young kid when he was on the air (well, maybe not that young) but in my eyes, he was the best comedian of our time.

Do you know he disowned Joan Rivers? The day after he died ABC did an interview with her, and the reporter lamented about how she was "his favorite" to which Joan replied "Oh honey you are WRONG. He never forgave me for leaving to start my own show."

I would have left that bitch, too. Lets see...Johnny Carson or Melissa Rivers? Hmmm, screw nepotism.

 

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