Monday, January 24, 2005

Carson the Magnificent

from the AP (Douglas C. Pizac)

This photo captures a moment so perfectly that I had to post it. I'm not going to pretend I have a lot to say about Johnny Carson's death, but I am old enough to remember watching him (and it hurts me to admit that), and I certainly remember watching his final "Tonight Show" in 1992.

I see Carson's influence every night on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," when after a joke or particularly absurd moment, Stewart simply gets laughs with a look to the camera or in-studio audience. Even in my limited knowledge of Carson, I know he was a master of that. Stewart sometimes also flat-out imitates Carson, tugging at the knot of his tie and shrugging to save a joke or accentuate a punchline.

Carson also played a key role in the career of Jerry Seinfeld, which is demonstrated on the Volume 1 DVD set of "Seinfeld." (Disc 4, to be exact - thanks for the Christmas present, sis!) I assume Seinfeld's 1981 and 1990 appearances on "The Tonight Show" are included as a thank-you to a man who helped his career immensely.

To me, it's admirable that Carson just lived his life after retiring and didn't try to keep himself in the spotlight, no matter how much he was asked to. (It was revealed last week, however, that Carson couldn't resist still commenting on our culture, and occasionally sent jokes to David Letterman, which he used in his monologue. Good timing with that news, eh?) He knew he had his moment, and left it at that.

The New York Times had great coverage of Carson today, including a terrific obituary, another tribute, a story about his continued joke-writing, and his final monologue from "The Tonight Show."

And if you're like me and want to read just a bit more, here's a tribute from Tom Shales of the Washington Post.