ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Johnny & Ed's Tonight Show, As Well As Modern Comedy, Fades To Black

Updated on June 23, 2009
Johnny & Ed shake hands on the very last episode after 30 years of the completely unforgettable The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Johnny & Ed shake hands on the very last episode after 30 years of the completely unforgettable The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson

My great grandfather had been a fairly well known attorney in Italy thus had a wide range of people he had known through his life. Although he passed away when I was six years old, I remember him very vividly as a rod skinny spry old man whose boundless energy belied his eighty plus years. One of the aspects of this great old man I remember most clearly was that whenever he would learn that someone he had known had passed away, he was elated: "They're dead and I'm still alive!"

I envy my great grandfather's incredibly optimistic and enthusiastic outlook on his continued existence in the face of the deaths of people he had known. I've never been able to emulate that, as passings have a more traditional effect upon me. I remember the ones that have passed with nostalgia and sadness.

This grieving was surprisingly enough triggered this morning by the news that long time Johnny Carson sidekick and product pitchman Ed McMahon had passed away. I have known more than my fair share of television and motion picture personalities, but I never had the privilege of meeting Mr. McMahon... although I felt like I had known him and Johnny my whole life.

I was raised in a very unconventional household where I was treated as an adult from childhood. Therefore at my house while I was growing up, there was no such thing as a fixed bedtime for me. I went to bed when I was tired, and that meant that at least on four weeknights out of five, I'd stay up to catch Johnny Carson's monologue on The Tonight Show.

It is almost incalculable to be able to ascertain how profoundly watching decades of The Tonight Show affected me as an adult. So much of my own sense of humor was shaped by Johnny Carson in those magnificent and always memorable monologues which were able to leave both the studio and home audience in stitches. The most remarkable aspect of Johnny's monologues were that he managed to provide sensational comedy, night after night, for thirty years! And he managed to do so without relying on scatology, shock, or offensive political barbs, which seem to have become the mainstays of comedy in the 21st century. He made people laugh because he was a great standup comedian with arguably the finest sense of timing in the history of comedy.

I remember with remarkable fondness the afternoons I spent in the audience at the NBC studios in Beautiful Downtown Burbank watching this great man ply his trade. As any Carson Connoisseur will testify, the best bits were usually during the commercial breaks, when he would let loose with the stars in exchanges that would never be aired. I was present for one particularly memorable episode when diminutive songwriter Paul Williams took exception to George Peppard referring to him as a midget, and proceeded to tell Johnny to inform George that he wasn't "a midget, but a five foot powerhouse who's going to knock him on his ass!"

Those great, unforgettable moments all rushed back when I read about Ed McMahon's death. Johnny had passed away years ago, a man who was probably the best liked man in America except to the people who knew him personally and found him cold and dismissive offstage. But none of that mattered to the millions who tuned in night after night to hear Ed's signature "Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere's Johnnnnnnyyyyyyyyyyy..."

I cannot bring myself to watch Conan's Tonight Show. It's not The Tonight Show any more: It's only the transplantation of Conan's patently silly, stupid, and insipid insomniac schtick to an earlier time slot. Although I truly appreciate Leno as a comedian, his program wasn't The Tonight Show either. Without Paul Anka's anthem being blasted out by Doc Severinsen's trumpet and the infallible, innate chemistry between Johnny and Ed, it was just another late night variety show.

There is some great television comedy left in the 21st century. Two thirds of the episodes of The Big Bang Theory and about half of the episodes of Two And A Half Men certainly qualify, although the latter cannot seem to go through 60 seconds without uttering scathology or luridity. However, are there any great stand up comedians any longer? Not that I've seen... just a bunch of laconic or hyperactive bozos who have to drop three f-bombs into each sentence. There is no one left with the integral and unmistakable class of Johnny Carson.

That has to be the key word to remember Johnny Carson by: Class. He was class incarnate. Now that even Ed is gone there will be no more "Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere's Johnnnnnnyyyyyyyyyyy..." and I profoundly pity the generations of comedy audiences who will never know what remarkable zeniths were achieved, night after night, at 11:30 pm on NBC.

May God bless you and keep you both, Johnny and Ed. Thanks for the memories.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Dobson profile image

      Dobson 

      8 years ago from Virginia

      This was a nice trip down memory lane. The Tongiht show of my youth was certainly all class. We did not have to ponder the Kardashians or the latest sexual exploits of the stars.

      Johnny and Ed were gentelemn who gave us inforgettable comedy with little more than their remarkable wit and ability to complement each other seamlessly.

      Great hub here!

    • Hal Licino profile imageAUTHOR

      Hal Licino 

      9 years ago from Toronto

      You're welcome. My pleasure, fellow Classic Tonight Show enthusiast! :)

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      9 years ago from Chicago

      I agree. Carson and the Tonight Show were awesome, clean entertainment. His class and his timing were impeccable. Thanks for the fine Hub.

    • Hal Licino profile imageAUTHOR

      Hal Licino 

      9 years ago from Toronto

      Well, I absolutely loved The REAL Tonight Show and it was a real thrill to be able to go out to Burbank to watch the show being taped, even though it usually entailed a three hour line up outside the NBC building in Sahara temperatures. It was all worth it once Ed piped up with his trademark "Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere's Johnnnnnnnnnnnnnnyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy..." Dang, I miss that so much! Mel Brooks is just one example of the great comedy writers of the past and they are all examples that today's comedians should try to emulate, rather than reaching in deeper into the filth pile! :(

    • Alexander Mark profile image

      Alexander Silvius 

      9 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      It seems you have reached for the positive on this one. I was too young, (sorry if that makes you feel old), to see many of his shows, but I do remember he was what you say he was: clean, good comedy, and the monologues were great. I do like adolescent comedy, but it is too much low comedy these days, and it is not deep. How can it be deep you ask? Take Mel Brooks's Blazing Saddles and History of the World. He makes you laugh at racial stereotypes, while making fun of people who really are racist.

      But comedians today don't make commentary except to repeat what the mob wants to hear: dirty jokes and mostly anti-conservative humor. I never watched Leno much, but he was likable. It may be because he didn't totally give himself over to crass humor that he found himself in early retirement.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)