On October 1, 1962, temporary host Groucho Marx introduced the new permanent host of NBC’s Tonight Show, a shy midwesterner named Johnny Carson. For the next 30 years, Carson ruled late night as his own personal empire, and in my opinion, was the greatest late-night host of all time.
Looking back at old Tonight Show episodes, you can see not only how good he was, but how incredibly dumb today’s late-night hosts have become. Carson was crude, dirty and lewd without uttering a word. His very mannerisms could cause a filthy snicker. Carson also had a knack for letting the guests shine, inserting himself only to help the guest or as an affable comic foil.
Most importantly, the guy was cool. He was real, real cool. Even with among the most controversial intellectuals of the twentieth century, he was cool.
I attached the first appearance of Ayn Rand on the Tonight Show in 1967. Rand was invited back two more times to the show. It’s basically a conversation between Carson and Rand on objectivism, capitalism, rationality…even Ed McMahon joins the conversation.
Forget about your own opinions on Rand: I’m mixed on her, to be honest. Just name one show on late night today that would have such an intellectual conversation for over 20 minutes of airtime.
…and we wonder why our kids can’t think critically.