Monday, January 24, 2005

Mistuh Carson, he dead

Once when I was a kid, I braved the clock and stayed up until 10:30 p.m. (central time) to see if there was any good TV beyond the void of the late news. We had a temperamental color television, so Johnny Carson had an excessively pink, flushed look about him. I wasn't impressed. I didn't really cotton to late night television for a long time after that, until my local CBS affiliate started running and re-running the "Planet of the Apes" movies on a four- or five-week cycle. Charlton Heston. Apes. Cool.

At some point, though, probably in junior high, I started pausing when I flipped past "The Tonight Show." It seemed like that Carson guy was always saying something funny. Eventually, I got to be a regular -- late night snack and soda, tuning in for my monologue fix five nights a week.

I never figured out Carson's politics. I don't know if anyone did. He was an equal opportunity jokester -- never too hard on his targets and he seemed to really like people, but no one was ever quite safe, either. He was just funny. And that was enough. When he left the Tonight Show, the Tonight Show came off my viewing schedule. Leno never cut it with me. He's funny, I guess, but he's no Johnny Carson. His real function in life is to spare us the realization that David Letterman isn't Johnny Carson, either.

Johnny Carson died this weekend. He was 79.

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