News of the death of Johnny Carson yesterday came to me as an awful shock, almost rivaling the sudden death of John Lennon in 1980. I had no idea Carson was suffering from emphysema, and I always assumed he would come back some day and make us all laugh one more time. Jack Benny, George Burns, Bob Hope ... Can we call them The Greatest Generation of Comedy? He was quite younger than those others, of course. In fact, he was attending the University of Nebraska at the same time my father was, and like Tom Brokaw, his professional devotion and unassuming, pleasant nature made him stand out from the crowd. For more, see johnnycarson.com (link via Donald Sensing). With all those reruns of his greatest moments being played, it's hard to sort out one's own memory from TV-induced "memory," but here are some of the things I think I remember most vividly from The Tonight Show while he was there:
- The Mighty Carson Art Players, with the mustachioed fast-talking salesman; the same routines just got funnier every time
- Chimps and countless other wild animals peeing on his suit
- Tiny Tim's wedding to Miss Vicky in 1969
- Drew Carey's first stand-up comedy act -- I almost split a gut laughing!
- And of course, that classy, poignant farewell episode. Goodnight, Johnny.