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Friday, April 4, 2014

Leno? Letterman? I miss the king

Living in the Central Time Zone as a teen, I often watched Johnny Carson's monologue weeknights at 10:30. It was a window into an adult view of the world that opened every night, in contrast to other windows like Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In or the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour that were weekly. Carson's main competitor was the erudite and dry Dick Cavett. I liked him too, and still do, but his monologues weren't as funny and much of the conversation on Cavett -- on the rare occasions when I could stay up to watch it -- was over my head at the time.

During the college years I became a night owl and fell into watching The Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder instead of Carson. Then came children and my alarm clock flipped to 5:30 am. But I never lost my appreciation for Carson, and I still believe that Bette Midler's performance on his penultimate show is one of the best moments on TV ever. She won an Emmy for it.

The accompanist and arranger, Marc Shaiman, was superb too.

Carson retired 22 years ago. I preferred David Letterman to Jay Leno, but my schedule never again accommodated TV at 11:30 pm. Now Leno has retired, Letterman has announced his retirement, and there are worthy successors (Jimmy Kimmel, Conan O'Brien, Jimmy Fallon, etc.) But in my heart, Carson is still the king. Watch this too.