January 24, 2005

"I'll be right back"

When asked what he would like as his epitaph, Johnny Carson said, "I'll be right back." He also wanted an eternal flame at his grave that would be operated with a clapper.

Perhaps one of our last widely shared television icons, he was one we all went to bed with at some point. And talked about in the morning.    Always boyish with a Midwestern charm, his demeanor was so affecting yet cool that men and boys in the millions copied his mannerisms and reactions to tell their own jokes or retell his.

Former NBC Chairman Grant Tinker once called the Tonight Show "the biggest and best television has ever been."    And that indeed is a great legacy.  And so was his generosity to up-and-coming comedians.  He was an extraordinary mentor, always on the look-out for new talent.  Among the comedians who got their first nod of national recognition on the Tonight show are

  • Rosanne Barr
  • David Brenner
  • George Carlin
  • Dick Cavett
  • Billy Crystal
  • Rodney Dangerfield
  • Ellen Degeneris
  • Jay Leno
  • David Letterman
  • Steve Martin
  • Joan Rivers
  • Jerry Seinfeld

That maturity and generosity of spirit is what I most admire him for. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at January 24, 2005 7:00 PM | Permalink