Sunday, September 30, 2018

Sunday Fun: Carnac The Magnificent - The Best Episode

A couple of years ago, I had an intern who didn't know who Johnny Carson was. Sad for her (and it certainly made me feel old).

Carson was justifiably known as the "King of Late Night." For those of younger generations, Johnny had a rotating group of bits after the monologue and before the first guest. My favorite was "Carnac the Magnificent" (followed in a distant second by "Art Fern and the Tea Time Movie").

Although I didn't run across it until last week, about a year ago, the very best of the Carnac bits was posted to YouTube in its entirety. It is presented below. As a bit of historical context, that edition of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson was presented during the air traffic controller strike which produced coast-to-coast chaos. And, this particular performance of Carnac includes the very best Carnac joke of them all, which produced one of the longest laughs in the history of television. Enjoy!
Of course, most of these jokes would be politically incorrect today. That is even more reason to treasure them! Once you have watched, you'll see why this joke made it into the Archive of American Television.

I've given some thought as to what made Johnny such a towering figure as compared to other talk show hosts at the time and ever since. I think it was because Carson, as incredibly talented as he was, was never afraid to let Ed, Doc, or a guest get a great laugh. He even seemed to treasure it, likely because it made his show better. Note that none of the current shows have sidekicks that the host treats like an equal. Why? Their egos are too big and their talents to small.

And, by the way, Johnny got into an argument with Ed about the weather one night. So, since I was working for the NBC affiliate in Wichita at the time (and this was before fax machines and FedEx), I sent a letter to Johnny via the internal NBC teletype. Johnny and Ed turned it into a funny bit the very next night. On the 0.000001% chance someone has it on video somewhere, I'd love to get a copy.

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