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January 17, 2010


Vic Perry

Now I finally understand all those jokes in Mad Magazine about Jack Paar...with the benefit of history, I think we can at least be thankful that Jim Carrey was never given his own late night talk show.

Bob C

Your inflation calculation is wrong. Paying jerry lewis 8 mil in 1962 would be like paying him 56+mil today. You dropped a log order somewhere.


Loved this article.

Glad I came across this website.

Michael Powers

It's true that Kovacs hosted the Tonight Show on Mondays and Tuesdays toward the end of Allen's tenure, and Kovacs reportedly did it as totally his own show, a more or less typical (if anything about Kovacs could be said to be typical) offering with his own music and format. Had Kovacs not died at the height of his career in a freak car accident in which he was supposedly fumbling with a cigar lighter in a rental car, he apparently would have gone on to a magnificent movie career (Walter Matthau inherited Kovacs' budding onscreen partnership with light comedy wizard Jack Lemmon). Evidently it was a slow news day when Kovacs kicked the bucket because there were huge diagrams of the route the car took to Kovacs' demise plastered all over newspapers' front pages. (Kind of the opposite of Robert Mitchum's death, something pundits had speculated about for decades as finally spurring an inevitable and overdue Mitchum craze, but was eclipsed the very next day when James Stewart, the only then-extant movie star with an even richer oeuvre than Mitchum's, suddenly joined him in non-existence.) Kovacs' wondrous wife Edie Adams wound up making cigar commercials to help pay off Kovacs' huge debts rather than defaulting, which she could have chosen to do.

Of course there is next to no film of Kovacs' Tonight Show. The cavalier attitude of the television networks of that era toward their own best material remains retrospectively astonishing, almost as if the concept of rerunning anything ever had never even so much as occurred to anyone in an executive position.

Michael Powers

By the way, the picture of the television set with the big red NBC logo was exactly the same model as the first color television in my house growing up and I was shocked to see it in the article, especially since I'd forgotten exactly what it looked like until I recognized it again. We also earlier had one of those bizarre black-and-whites with the tube suspended above the cabinet, and kept it in the basement for years after it no longer worked. You can imagine how much I wish I still had it.

Michael Powers

I saw Jay Leno perform live at a small comedy club in '83, before I'd ever seen him on television, and it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. The energy coursing through that room was like the climax of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and I've never seen anything remotely like it despite fancying myself as something of an aficionado of live comedy (favorites include the late George Carlin, Marc Maron, Sarah Silverman, Janeane Garofalo, Jim Norton, among many others). As everyone in the "industry" knew at the time, Leno was the greatest standup comedian of his day, and no one else even came close. (The 1983 Carlin was still nothing like the kick-ass later version, talking about what people do with their "stuff" as opposed to later eviscerating religion, the ecology mania, and proclaiming "Fuck the children!" in response to America's near-pederasty in shamelessly and relentlessly fetishizing their own offspring.) In glancing over the Comments, I was struck by the savagery of some of the anti-Leno sentiment. I'm afraid NBC would've replaced Conan in any case--perhaps if he'd recapped my favorite of his early routines, the "little dead boy," and been edgier from the outset (less Conando, more masturbating bear), it might've been different, but the audience literally halved by along about Conan's third night, three months before Leno even started his 10 PM show, and never went back up until the firestorm at the very end (which Conan handled well, pulling some sort of victory from the jaws, as it were, of what would ordinarily have been a really embarrassing defeat). Leno remains a ratings powerhouse and should be especially respected for his halcyon days as a miraculous young standup. And I hear that his current standup appearances are something to see live, which I don't begin to doubt.

Michael Powers

When Steve Allen went head-to-head with the toweringly popular Ed Sullivan variety show on Sunday nights, both wound up handily bested in 1957 and '58 by the next television sensation, James Garner in writer Roy Huggins' comedic western "Maverick." Many of the episodes from the first two seasons of that series hold up so well today that they're not only the most entertaining television series episodes ever produced but could easily be favorably compared with the very finest movies. Neither Sullivan nor Allen stood a chance.

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