I was reading an interview with Jimmie Walker yesterday, as you do, and, while I am not a fan of his politics, he made a good point about Jay Leno, namely that not one comic has ‘broken through’ on ‘The Tonight Show’ since he started hosting, which seems kind of ungrateful and…un-‘Tonight Show’-y.
I know that that are now myriad other ways for comedians to get their names, faces, and words out to the public, but ‘The Tonight Show’, for decades, was the place to get discovered because almost everyone in the U.S. was watching, or talking about, the show. Johnny Carson helped launch the careers of dozens of careers, including other talk show hosts like Roseanne, Ellen DeGeneres, and, of course, Jay Leno.
I know some people think of David Letterman is a grumpy old philanderer and, well, sure, I can’t really deny that, but I’m a big fan anyway, especially because he is a) actually funny and b) still legitimately humbled by his fame (at least sometimes).
After the first ‘Tonight Show’ hosting débacle of my lifetime, Carson started secretly writing monologue jokes for Letterman’s show, uncredited, of course, which I find fascinating and lovely. Dave worshipped Johnny, who invited him to the couch on his first appearance, for which he has always been grateful.
‘Where’s the proof, you lazy researcher!’ Eh, I’m typing this on my phone from memory, but check out this rare interview with David Letterman on the ‘Here’s the Thing’ podcast. (Then check out Conan’s latest Letterman appearance on YouTube, if you can find it, because they get snarky about Leno and it makes me laugh.)