LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Johnny Carson, the "Tonight Show" TV host who served America a smooth nightcap of celebrity banter, droll comedy and heartland charm for 30 years, has died. He was 79.
"Mr. Carson passed away peacefully early Sunday morning," his nephew, Jeff Sotzing, told The Associated Press. "He was surrounded by his family, whose loss will be immeasurable. There will be no memorial service."
Sotzing would not give further details, including the time of death or the location.
My door opened onto our living room and, when I was a kid, Johnny came on at 10:30 (Central time zone). My bedtime, as a kid (we moved out of that house when I was 13, I think), was probably 9 or 10, but I used to crack the door open and watch Johnny do his monologue and then talk to guys like Buddy Hackett, Charton Heston and Tony Bennett. When I became an adult, I still watched Johnny - nearly every night, later followed by Letterman. I thought then, and I do now, that he was so funny, mostly because HE thought things were so funny.
Though Johnny was before my time, I was always intrigued by the admiration which the mere mention of his name seemed able to drum up in people of older generations. I managed to get my hands on old tapes and watched him work, and he really was seamless and smooth, never seeming to have to reach for anything to make it work. Even though I could never really appeciate the material completely, since it is of another time and operates within a context that must be experienced to be properly comprehended, I respect what he accomplished simply for having accomplished it.
Good night, Johnny.
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I know what I'm saying here is pretty obvious stuff, but without him, there probably would have never been a Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jerry Seinfeld, Roseanne, etc. Or at least they may have never had the same level of success.
It's weird, because I read just last week that he was still writing the odd monologue joke for Letterman. He still had it...
Anyways, for the short term I was able to watch him (Probably only started in the late-80's or so), it was easy to see he was probably the best overall entertainer around...
I'll always thank my parents for introducing me to comedians like the Smothers Brothers and Johnny Carson when I was a little kid. Sure, I was probably too young to get most of the stuff, but I remembered them once I developed a sense of humor, and Johnny was one of a kind. I still watch the DVD infomercial every time its on, and I've seen it like 25 times.
I regret that I didn't see him in the Tonight Show heyday. When I really started watching hardcore (in the summers when school was out), Johnny wasn't around as much, and Jay was the host on most nights.
"Here's to Krusty, the greatest entertainer in the world...except for maybe that guy." - Bart Simpson on Johnny Carson
I was much too young to see Johnny Carson during his heyday, but I always admired him. I admired the fact that he, unlike many in the entertainment field, chose to bow out quietly and not whore himself on the basis of name recognition. Later, I saw old tapes of his shows and was blown away by his affability and likeability. He just fired things off and if they worked or didn't, he kept soldiering on. Heck, he shared one of my favorite qualities in a comedian with Conan O'Brien: His "off" shows are his funniest because he went out of his way to save bits.
The world is a lesser place now that he's gone, but the laughter he's given us shall echo on forever.
"Illusions, Michael. A trick is something a whore does for money...or candy!" - G.O.B. Bluth, Arrested Development
Apparently right up until close to his death, he was writing monologue jokes for Letterman. Isn't that just a massive 'fuck you' to Jay Leno? Wow.
Carson is easily in the top ten of any list of television's greatest pioneers. He was one of those rare people who could state that he was the greatest of all time at what he did.
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