I did the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson seven times. I grew up wanting to perform on the Tonight Show and the only host I ever knew was Johnny Carson. He remains one of my idols. I just think there was never anyone better than him in that format.
I was discussing this with a friend who also did the Carson Tonight Show many times. We were talking about the Late Night situation currently. (Actually we were talking about how I put "my foot in my blog" and accidentally entered the fray... anyway) We wondered if the landscape of television has changed so much that a Johnny Carson couldn't be relative in today's market. Maybe today his style wouldn't work.
Say you could resurrect Carson in his prime and put him on the air today? I think he would be king again. Real talent is not of an era, nor a product of a specific socio-economic time. Real talent just is. Johnny was smart, witty and charming. He was funny but did not have a "comic's personality".
By that I mean most comics are loners. They are on stage alone and don't share space very well. They have to be the one's with the first joke, dominate the conversation and always be performing. Johnny's secret talent was being a good listener a reactor to comedy as much as the originator. He could get more laughs off his reaction to a failed joke than a successful one. He was the master of the Jack Benny take, the hilarious silence of impeccable timing. He let you shine and he was there to keep you going, feed you the line, add to the roll when appropriate. You never thought he was tying to "one up you" or jump on your laugh. He made you feel so at ease it was not a struggle to talk to him. (Nervous as a cat I did it seven time and he made even me look good)
Today all the talk show hosts, with the exception of Craig Furguson come from a career in Stand up. They just don't know how to be a raconteur. They really don't know how to talk to a guest to make them look their best. They are not listening they are structuring the next joke. They want to top the guest, get the last laugh. But isn't it called a Talk show.... not a "listen to me crack wise show".
Johnny would have found his audience. He found them for 30 years. He handled the love child 60's, the disco 70's, the Reagan 80's, and left as star in the early 90's. If his talent was of a time, then time would have caught up with him. It didn't, he left on top.
Johnny would be 84 this year. Too old to help NBC through the storm. What a shame. We miss you Johnny. Do you understand the void you left? Please reincarnate soon.... we need you more than ever.
There are two yes/no buttons that need to be activated when you set up a blog. Here is the exact explanation of what the choices mean (copied straight from the settings menu):
When both options are set to "NO" it means that the blog is not public. It will not be crawled by any search engines and it will not be listed anywhere. It still has an address that anyone can go to, but you have to go to that specific address.
I have this blog set to "NO" in both cases. In fact the picture above is a screen clip of the actual settings.
This means if I mention anyone by name in my blog, say Abraham Lincoln or Jay Leno, no one can Google those names and find a search reference listing my blog as containing those names. For those who want the maximum readership this is a bad thing because no one finds the blog unless specifically looking for it. I only have 6 subscribers. I really have no idea who besides my family, friends and a few select fans actually read this "semi-daily self-serving homily".
That is why it is puzzling to me that in a blog with over 750 separate entries, which can not be crawled or searched, Howard Stern could find the one essay I wrote talking smack about Jay Leno. Although I was at sea and didn't actually hear Howard's show last Monday... from the commotion it caused, it seems that he read some of my blog on the air.
I feel like I got caught passing notes in class and the teacher read it to everyone. I should have used better judgment than to write it... but I did. I will know better next time.
But I keep coming back to "how my silly story became grist for Howard Stern?" It's like that old joke: An actor comes home to find his house has been robbed, vandalized and his wife beaten and raped. He says, "Oh my God who did this." The wife said, "It was your agent, he came by and when he saw you weren't her he did this." The actor thinks for a minute and says excitedly, "My agent came to the *house*?"
Howard Stern read my blog??
Well, there you go. The entry that caused the fuss has been taken down. There is a feeling among some of the regulars that I should have left it up... but I'm ready to move on. Writing explanations and clarifications would cause the discussion to make smaller and smaller concentric circles around the issue until it would eventually fly up its own literary asshole.
(Oh I saved the offending rant on my hard drive.... For an original copy send $5 and a self addressed stamped envelope to ---)
It seems this blog has taken on a life of its own since I have been at sea.
I am very sorry about the negativity it has generated, and the firestorm it caused. I never wanted to insert myself into an episode of "national personality bashing" or hurt the feelings of a good friend. It seems in a momentary lapse of judgment I have done both.
In my mind I was standing up for one of my good friends who I thought was being taken advantage of. He is far to nice to write a blog like I did or even complain about it. Turns out I didn't have the facts straight and he was not unhappy at all until my words hit the national airwaves.
I take credit and responsibility for everything I wrote and am not hiding behind some screen name. I realize now that negativity has a way of spreading exponentially and I should have known better than to engage in it.
Mike thanks for taking my call and setting me straight. I still think you are too nice to run a comedy club, but since you have been doing it successfully for 30 years what do I know.
Jimmy you are still the nicest guy in show business.
Jay are we going to have to go through this every time you change jobs?
When they make the movie out of this story... can I play Lacey?
Another Mexican Port of call..... more tee shirts and silver jewelery. They are serving tacos on board ship at that buffet. One lady thought they were very authentic... I don't think that qualifies as local cuisine.
Just a side note. Typing by thumb and blackberry at the airport.
I left in a fog this morning and forgot to put change in my pocket. I knew after the first cup of coffee I bought I would have change but my "magic" coin would not with me this trip.
I always carry a foreign coin in my pocket. The only requirement is that it be a different size or shape than any American coin so I can easily find it in a pocket full of coins.
This started years ago in college as a coin to do magic tricks and practice rolling across my knuckles. I have nervous energy and it helps. Well it has become a tradition, sort of a good luck symbol for a long time.
I have had several, they eventually get lost, I say they move on and I replace it with another. I have never done a show in the last 30 years that a "magic coin" was not in my pocket on stage. The Wiz (my production stage manager) still checks to see if I have the coin in my pocket before I go on stage for "The two and only".
Sandi drove me to the airport this morning and I mentioned my lucky coin wasn't with me. Not being as superstitious as me she pretty much said I would get over it and be fine.
She is right, and I decide this will be the time I no longer need to carry a magic coin on stage with me.
I get to Starbucks at the airport and there is a large foreign coin sitting alone on top of the cash register that catches my eye. I ask, and the cashier who doesn't know anything about it; doesn't know what it is or how it got there. I get my change and say "You want to sell me that coin for a dollar?" She jumped at the chance. I have a new magic coin. Very odd after my conversation to the airport. It is a Hong Kong 5 dollar piece. I like it.
Just as I am ready to move past the need for a magic coin, another one finds me. I see it as a very positive sign. You may see it as an over active imagination. We are both right.
I guess when it rains it pours. Now there seem to be two documentaries about ventriloquism in the public consciousness. That sounds like the punch line to a joke. Probably not since De LaChapell's paper in the 1700's on "Engastrometh" has there been this much interest in ventriloquism.
"Dumbstruck" (a vent. doc.) seems to have gotten some interest at the Palm Springs Film Festival. I haven't seen it but know the vents they showcase, and from the reviews and remarks it seems to treat ventriloquism with the respect it is due. Dedicating one's life to a dream, no matter what the dream, is an interesting narrative, one I think I would like to see. I am looking forward to seeing it when it is available for public viewing. "I'm No Dummy" is now available for sale at Amazon.com. I think they are offering a discount before the official release date. There has not been a huge announcement about it. My advice to all who would be interested in this documentary, buy it now quickly.
It is it still the subject of an on-going frivolous lawsuit and although I think once the dummy dust has settled it will prevail, there is no guarantee. Now days the legal system is not about right and wrong, justice or injustice, it is about who has the deepest pocket to keep funding delays and filings. Right now the person attempting to block it has a very deep pocket.
Either way it is a win to own. It is a good documentary on ventriloquism to have in your collection and if the bullies prevail in blocking the release, then it will surely become a collectors item. I know guys who are buying several copies in speculation of the final legal ruling. My brain runs toward the artistic and not commercial so I was never very good at that kind of memorabilia speculation.
Anyway. I hope that the current interest in ventriloquism opens up some more venues for us all to perform. The current interest should not be a wind fall for the few, but a payday for all.
I have been watching a lot of History channel recently. I used to call it the Hitler Channel because it seemed all they did were stories on Hitler for a time . Now they are doing end of the world prophecies, so I refer to it as the Hysterical Channel. Recently they were trying to coordinate the Bible and Nostradamus into a unified prediction of doom. They have made December 21, 2012 almost a doomsday holiday. If the end of the world doesn't happen then, there will be millions of viewers who will revolt. Happy programing, just what you want to hear before going to bed.
I'm not sure I believe that the world is a spiritual time bomb set to go off at a certain time that only old French poets can discern. However, I would be willing to believe in the rapture if the first one to vanish from the planet would be Pat Robertson.
Pat once again shows that, in the name of religion, he trades compassion for judgment when he says that the Hatia earthquake was punishment for an 1840 pack the early founders made with the devil. Really Pat? You can say that in 2010 with a straight face?
There is supposed to be a thousand years of peace and harmony on the earth after the Rapture. Could there be a connection between peace and the fact that people like Pat Robertson, Ralph Reed, Sarah Palin and James Dobson will be taken away already?
I am not a religious scholar and don't pretend to be. However, based upon what I see of television religion they seem to always be asking for money. Evidently you can buy your way past the gates of judgment for the right donation. With the double speak of the devil himself Pat Robertson asks for donations offering freedom from judgment while he judges plate tectonics to be the work of the devil. One more time, Really Pat?
Having lived through a 6.7 earthquake in a house that was built to a code to withstand a quake my heart goes out to the people of Hatia. If my Rector scale is correct a 7.0 is 30 times more powerful than the 6.7. I don't see how it helps to call them devil worshipers. It isn't very Christian, or Muslim or Jewish or Hindu or Buddhist it's just plain wrong. The least we can do is give them a kind thought if nothing else.
They say it is a sign of age when you don't want things to change. Older people want things to be exactly like they were, like they remember them. So, I'm not sure if it is a sign of age or tradition or the fact that the Tonight Show has always been a true television icon for me that I hate to see the Late Night fight that is happening now.
I am not a Jay Leno fan. In fact I think he could be one of the worst hosts the show has ever had. But he was good enough to keep the franchise going and those too young to have seen a real master like Johnny Carson in the role, might not know the difference. Leno is now positioned to strike the last blow at a show that is 55 years old. That is not middle age for a television show, that is ancient since the average life of a television show today is less than 6 weeks.
If Jay preempts the Tonight Show with his "talk show lite" it will knock the Tonight Show out of it's slot. Were he to take over the show if Conan were to quit, I'm not sure that he can regain the roll he once had. Jay should just retire and do his live shows, or play with his 16 million dollar car collection or just go away and leave us alone. He stopped being funny about 17 years ago, and never learned how to conduct an intelligent interview.
I don't know much about Conan O'Brien but it is his turn. Let's give him a chance to see if he can make the old Tonight Show a "must see" like the old days. I know it will never be the heady days of Johnny or the crazy days of Steve Allen, nor will it be the roller coaster of Jack Parr, but Jay has had his turn. Time to move on.
It was actually a sunny day in August when I took this picture at Corporation Beach in Dennis, Mass. I had been to the Edward Gorey house the day before and I guess I was in a Gorey mood. The house looked sort of spooky to me that day. When I returned home I used some Photo Shop filters to make it look more like it did in my imagining.
I guess I was thinking about Cape Cod and the Cape Playhouse today because I am decompressing from the York. There was a strong connection between the two runs. Steve Bearse who ran my sound at the Playhouse came in to New York to run my sound at the York Theatre. Bailey, one of the girls lighting girls at the Playhouse, came from Boston to see the show; and Chris, the lighting tech for the Cape Playhouse, happened to be in New York on business and he came by. It was a reunion of Cape Playhouse people. We missed Evans Haile, the Artistic Director, who normally would be in New York City, but was intervening to save a theatre in Florida from the wreckers during that week end.
The wonderful thing about the Two and Only is the people it attracts. Not just the audience, which is very special, but the crew and designers as well. There is an alumni of wonderful artists who have participated in the show and become a part of its theatrical fabric. With every remount there is more patina to the subtext contributed by wonderfully talented people.
I am glad to be an artist with a job that lets me hang around other artists. It is a blessing that the capitalist who only sees dollar signs in a project will never know. Here is a shout out to all the artists who have become part of The Two and Only"... Thank you very much. As you were, Jay
It was a long and arduous journey back from New York City. (Yes arduous, I looked it up and it is the perfect adjective). I have rambled on before about being spoiled to business or first class seats on a plane. After accumulating two and three quarter million miles and permanent Platinum status on American Airlines alone (not counting the miles on United and Delta) I have earned the right to upgrade when I get the chance. If there is no chance to upgrade I get first choice of exit row seating which is a small advantage over the regular coach seat.
However, nothing is certain and when the carrier needs to change equipment, with different exit seating and fewer upgrade seats you can get stuck in regular coach seat 27B next to an over weight 6 foot 4 guy sitting in 27A and 27A and a half. His love handles and elbows totally obscured the arm rest, leaving me to make do with thee quarters of a seat. Not able to rest my own elbows on anything but his oozing flesh, I crossed my arms and attempted to make myself smaller. Through years of airplane training and meditation techniques, I learned in the 70's, I am able to go to sleep in this position. This could have been the end to this story but the fates were not in agreement.
The guy next to me was a talker. Not a conversationalist, that would imply an interaction or exchange of ideas, he simply talked. He talked about his trip to New York and how he was changing jobs and how he didn't really want to change jobs because he had small children and he was in the financial business and it was hit hard in the last year and the small company he worked for had been taken over by some guy that just wanted to use it as a cash cow and if I ever went to Palos Verdes where he lived I should stop at the resort that he and his wife loved that was build on the site of the old Marineland theme park and it was really wonderful ... At one point I was aware that I had fallen asleep while he was talking to me, but woke up to realize he was on a racist rant about the black lady that had not given him the service at Hertz rental cars that he deserved as a presidential level customer, it was reverse discrimination and he should have sued but he didn't he just never rented a car from them again....
I did actually fall asleep for a while. I woke up enough to notice that he had stopped talking. I didn't open my eyes but pretended to still be sleeping, and eventually fell asleep again. He nudged me awake, I assumed to get up and go to the toilet, but not so... he woke me up to tell me that the John Grisham book he was reading was not his best work and the one he wrote about the court in Mississippi was the best because you know he was a lawyer and he really knows how a court works, that makes him really good at telling those stories.
Years ago I thought about designing a "do not disturb" sign to hang on your ear so that the person next to you on a plane would know that you are not interested in conversation. I'm not sure that would have helped shut this guy up, if he would actually wake a person up to talk about John Grisham. I think I could have accepted the fact that he was encroaching on my physical space, or that he was totally interrupting my mental space but not both at the same time.
Einstein was right, time is absolutely relative and not a constant. The physical flying time from New York to Los Angeles is around 6 hours if you are in the captain's seat. However, in seat 27B the flying time is approximately the same as an average year of eternity in hell.
I am home now and there will be no need for me to get on a plane for a few weeks. The show in New York went very well, we got great interest from the APAP convention for future bookings. I took the talkative guy's card and I plan to send it to the TSA suggesting he be put on a "no fly" list. Not that he is a terrorist, but after ten minutes next to him on a plane... even a Southern Baptist would consider becoming a suicide bomber for Islam. As you were, Jay
I am sitting in a Starbucks across from the Waldorf Astoria waiting for my ride to the airport. The Two and Only was a big success. Nice intimate theatre, and the show continues to grow with every realization.
You know when they tell you to break a leg in the theatre? Maybe we should re think that blessing. Opening night three minutes into the show I stepped off the back of the stage right riser and fell a couple of feet to a darkened stage. To the audience perspective they just saw me disappear. I was startled as I took inventory of my parts. Dr. Greasepaint kicked in and I was up and running quickly. There was a huge bruise and scrape on the inside of my left knee, but the rush of adrenaline took over. Fortunately with some ice and Tylenol it did not affect the rest of the shows noticeably. It is quite a "beautiful" purple by today.
It was great to be in New York again even for a few days and even in the cold.
Now it is back to work and looking for more.
As you were,
Some time ago I did an episode of CSI. In a flash-back scene my daughter, seen here in "artistic pain", was pushed out of a tree house. Just as they were setting the "blood pooling" scene her mother snapped this picture. They sent me a copy recently.
The little actress was all excited to do this scene until the special effects team started pumping the blood under her head. It was cold and she had to remain perfectly still for a very long time over several takes. When she got up she was covered with the sticky red ooze. I am sure her affection toward acting changed that day at just this moment. She was a trouper, however, and looked very dead for the camera. Pretending can be a lot of work for a little kid.
I remember the director yelled to the props guy to get some blood. Props replied, "What kind of blood?" In fact props had an entire trailer full if different kinds of blood. Pooling blood, dried blood, blood with guts, blood for clothes, blood that would not run, two day old blood, week old blood, blood in capsules that could go in your mouth... he had every kind of cinema blood available. A show like that must be much more interesting to work on than most.
The first Monday of 2010 and I have started saying twenty-ten rather than two thousand and ten, less syllables, an economy of sounds. I am back doing my morning pages which seem to fill in for the need to blog so much. My journal is an unfiltered passport into what I am thinking and for now that needs to remain a closed account. Today with all the blogging, texting, commenting and tweeting it is not fashionable to keep an opinion to yourself, but I was just raised differently I guess.
I'm getting ready to go to New York for my shows. It will be busy, but I am glad to have it this time of year. York Theatre here I come. The Wiz will be calling the show, so I have no worries about how it will run. I am concerned that I will get frost bite to and from the Hotel to the Theatre. The weather does not look to inviting for a Southern Californian.
I just took a poll of friends. 83% of them have already broken one or more New Years resolutions. For me I make resolutions that I can't possibly break, like:
This year I will not poke a Badger with a spoon. This year I will not set fire to my shoes while wearing them. This year I will not drink plutonium. Nor will I run naked through the House of Commons at the British Parliament.
That should take care of the resolution fall out this year. Happy twenty-ten As you were, Jay