Blogs > Liberty and Power > Sad news from LA

Jan 23, 2005 3:25 pm

Sad news from LA

I regret to inform you that Johnny Carson has died, at 79 of emphysema. Late-night TV hasn't been the same since he retired in '92. He had pretty much been out of the public eye since then, but his passing bears note.

In lieu of flowers for his wife, you can send some to mine -- I still have a large hole in my right hand, so it falls to her to snowblow the THREE FREAKIN' FEET of snow covering our driveway. (OTOH, at least we have a snowblower.)

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Steven Horwitz - 1/24/2005

I'm not sure it was about how funny he was. His was a gentle humor in a post-Carlin/Bruce era. To me, he was more like comfort food than a gourmet dinner. He was there every night (well, almost) and it was part of becoming an adult to get to stay up and watch Johnny. He won't be remembered as a great comedian, but rather someone who transformed TV and who was part of our collective cultural experience (like, say, Mr. Rogers).

I do disagree more deeply about his skills as an interviewer. I actually think he was one of the best at letting his guests be themselves! Too many late night folks now see their job as being the comedian to their guests straight-man routine, or worse, trying to make guests funny when they're not. Carson actually talked to his guests and the humor came out not as scripted or forced, but as the easy-going conversation of people you liked. For me, so much of Carson's appeal was his very non-descriptness and his sense of ease. He was the way *I'd* want to be, and imagine myself to be, if I could interview famous people. Sort of a cool, calm, version of myself. :) That's a skill, in my book.

Roderick T. Long - 1/24/2005

I hate to sound like the Grinch at the wake here, but I've always been baffled by Carson's popularity. As a comedian, he wasn't funny; as an interviewer, he seemed more interested in himself than in his guests. What am I missing?

Aeon J. Skoble - 1/23/2005

>woke up Friday morning to a temperature of -32F in my >backyard. Wanna trade?

You bet! The snowblower died 1/4 of the way through the job! So now my poor wife has to shovel the rest. And the three feet is more like 5 where the plow has gone by. I told her that I felt badly that I couldn't do it, and she replied without missing a beat "Not as bad as I feel!" She's a gem, and gets bonus points for cleverness.

RE Carson: well put! I agree entirely.

Steven Horwitz - 1/23/2005

Of Johnny, I just wrote elsewhere:

"He was funny, classy, smooth, and gentlemanly. He seems now like
a relic of a by-gone era, and almost a generation has now grown up
without ever knowing how TV could be funny and classy and cool without
being obscene, patronizing, or just plain stupid.

I will be sad, but I will enjoy the reminiscing that will take place."

And I want to add that another piece of my childhood is now gone....

Enjoy the snow Aeon. We missed it up here - just a couple of inches this far north. However, I woke up Friday morning to a temperature of -32F in my backyard. Wanna trade?