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Johnny Carson Teaches Modern Late Night Hosts a Lesson About Getting Political

Some of my earliest television memories are staying up late and watching Johnny Carson without my parents’ knowledge. Sure, he was in his twilight years in terms of his late-night career, but he was still near the top of his game.

Was there a secret for his success? I suppose plenty. His timing was impeccable and he knew how to save a bad routine. He had a great eye for talent and he knew how to make the viewer feel welcome. Part of that last part, it could be argued, was the fact that he was about as ecumenical as a host could be.

For all you knew, Johnny Carson could have secretly been a member of the John Birch Society or the Weather Underground. He’d never let on.

“Along with virtually every other American, I never knew Johnny Carson’s politics,” Dennis Prager wrote in a 2017 column. “I would not have been surprised if he was a liberal or a conservative, a Democrat or a Republican. In his 30 years as host of ‘The Tonight Show’ on NBC, he never so much as hinted as to how he identified politically. He poked fun at whoever was in power.”

Even back in the day, Serious People™ didn’t like this. CBS’ Mike Wallace took Carson to task over it when “60 Minutes” did a profile on Carson back in the 1970s.

“Do you get sensitive about the fact that people say, ‘He’ll never take a serious controversy?’” Wallace asked.

“Well, I have an answer to that,” Carson said. “Now, tell me the last time that Jack Benny, Red Skelton, any comedian used his show to do serious issues.

“That’s not what I’m there for,” he continued, slightly piqued. “You see that?”

“But you’re not–” Wallace said.

“Why do they think since you have a ‘Tonight Show,’ you will deal with serious issues? That’s a danger. That’s a real danger. Once you start that, you start to get that self important feeling, that what you say has great import. And you know, strangely enough, you could use that show as a forum, you could sway people. And I don’t think you should as an entertainer.”

Thanks to Roy Fields (RoyFields.com) for bringing this to our attention – WATCH: Johnny Carson on Why He Never Used His Show For Political Purposes

Thanks to Roy Fields (RoyFields.com) for bringing this to our attention – WATCH: Johnny Carson on Why He Never Used His Show For Political Purposes

Posted by Keep Texas Red on Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Of course, one enterprising person decided to insert photos of Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers over that last part, just in case you didn’t get the message.

Kimmel, for once, is relatively quiet on the major issue of the day — namely, Blackfacegate down in Virginia.

One assumes that this has more to do with the fact that Kimmel himself once donned blackface to portray basketball legend Karl Malone in a sketch for “The Man Show” than any new spirit of restraint, but at least we’ve been spared hearing the tortuous way he would tie Ralph Northam and Mark Herring back to Donald Trump.

However, this Carson interview is a glimpse into how hyperpartisan the media has become. It was still liberal back in 1979, mind you — William F. Buckley was always able to get plenty of mileage out of the establishment media even well before that — but there was a sense of restraint. Today, you have Democrats announcing their presidential candidacies on Stephen Colbert’s show because it’s essentially a one-hour liberal safe-space.

I’m not particularly big on the late-night shows, inasmuch as I’m a conservative. However, if you’re an errant liberal reading this, I have a question:

When you watch Colbert, Kimmel or Fallon, are you edified? When they dedicate half their show to bashing President Trump and Republicans, do you feel better about the direction of the country or your own beliefs? Are you more informed than you were when the show started? Do you feel that any of these individuals are providing you with succor or merriment?

The purpose of the late-night show was once to poke fun at the powerful, no matter who they were.

Comedians were there to entertain us before we went to bed, no matter who we were. Now, they’re a paid political advertisement for the Democrats. Is this an improvement?

“One could list a hundred ways America was indeed great (without ever ignoring serious moral flaws),” Prager wrote in his column about Carson and the state of late-night TV.

“Now, one can list a hundred ways in which America has lost that greatness. The descent from Johnny Carson to Stephen Colbert is just one example.

“But it is a powerful one.”

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Joseph Holland

    February 10, 2019 at 9:05 pm

    That is the reason I don’t watch none of those shows but I watch Carson every night, I wish they would just take the others off the air.

    • Kenneth Hecker

      February 10, 2019 at 10:27 pm

      You mean you “don’t watch ANY of those shows”?

      • Dragonfly43

        February 10, 2019 at 11:57 pm

        Most of us are smart enough to know what he meant. Your comment was just rude.

      • Tunamister

        February 11, 2019 at 2:14 pm

        …the the ‘ itty bitty corrective mind commity is buzy ..!!!.. mustajes jade, WHO CARES…!!!

  2. John D Cole

    February 10, 2019 at 9:49 pm

    Paid pretenders pretending to be important and nothing more.

  3. Dick Wilson

    February 10, 2019 at 11:05 pm

    Carson ‘s show was for entertainment not for political BS. and today’s late shows suck,,,,once Carson left the air so did I because of the so called know it all’s that are on there today…TV has returned to the “Great Wasteland”

  4. Proud vet

    February 10, 2019 at 11:18 pm

    The medias are controlled by the communist a.k.a. Democrat party! I just read an article today or seven days before JFK was assassinated he was going to warn America about them going to be enslaved by whom you ask I didn’t get to read the whole article but I am supposing since the Democrat party was taking over by the communist party back in the pre-30s and brought to light in the mid 50s I would say it’s them as they show every aspect of what the communist party stands for including group unity in the Congress ,Now I find that kind of curious wouldn’t you? That’s the way the Communist Party operates unison and if you step out of order they will bury you one way or the other just like they did James traffic at 21 against Bill Clinton, and now he’s dead.

  5. Dragonfly43

    February 10, 2019 at 11:59 pm

    We quit watching the late-night shows due to the political nature of them all. When I want politics, I’ll watch the news! Carson was great and greatly missed!

  6. Nell

    February 11, 2019 at 3:07 am

    Johnny Carson was the BEST EVER! While he did poke fun at politicians, it was never mean spirited, and he was fair about joking about democrats and republicans equally. When I got to be an adult I rarely missed his show. Letterman started out that way, but he turned into a real jerk. I wasn’t a big fan of Jay Leno’s, so I don’t know how he was but I never heard anything about him spreading hate like this crop of losers on now. I never thought I would give up television like I have, but I don’t watch very often. I got sick of the phonies and the political statements that oozed into so many shows. I don’t miss it.

  7. Joe

    February 11, 2019 at 4:58 am

    Loved Carson too, but Leno wasn’t bad either. Nowadays, it’s just lib chitte.

  8. Kris

    February 11, 2019 at 6:03 am

    I stopped watching the late night shows because of this. Why they’re still on is beyond me. I used to be a big fan of Stephen Colbert when he was on Comedy Central but every night he’s bashing Trump. Every night! He’s timesome & a sore loser.

  9. Tunamister

    February 11, 2019 at 2:27 pm

    …I just watched a , Jonny Carson LATE NIGHT on Youtube..!! NOw this guy is funny LATE NIGHT..!! USED TO WATCH HIM ALL THE TIME..!!.. NOTHING TODAY ON TV IS WORTH A CHIT..!! Lgbtqrixp-whatevers have taken over and SHOVE ALL THIS BI- SEXUAL CRAP AT US WITH DIM-0-WITT OVER TONES.,!! netflix is the WORST.,!!!

  10. GERI CLARK

    February 11, 2019 at 3:31 pm

    CARSON WAS GREAT, WATCHED IT EVERY NIGHT, TODAYS LATE NIGHT SHOWS ARE CRAP. NEVER WATCH THEM,

  11. Sonny Cervone

    February 11, 2019 at 9:06 pm

    And another reason he was so good…. Sad…

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