Running Scared: Observations of a Former Republican
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"Losing my faith in humanity ... one neocon at a time."

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Dear Johnny

posted by Jazz at 1/25/2005 07:45:00 AM

NOTE: YOU ARE VIEWING AN ARCHIVED POST AT RUNNING SCARED'S OLD BLOG. PLEASE VISIT THE NEW BLOG HERE.

I know that there have been a ton of Johnny Carson tributes making the rounds, and the more cynical among you might already be tiring of them. But in today's nyt, Steve Martin wrote one that really made me go all mistly for a moment.
If I could wake you up for a minute, I would ask you to tell me how good you thought you were. "Between you and me," I think you would whisper, "I know I was great in a subtle, secret way." I think you would also say: "I enjoyed and understood the delights of split-second timing, of watching a comedian squirm and then rescue himself, of the surprises that arise from the fractional seconds of desperation when the comedian senses that the end of his sentence might fall to silence."
I saw a biography of Steve Martin a while ago - I think it was on Bravo - where he talked about Johnny Carson. This was well before anyone even suspected that Johnny's health was failing, and Martin still fully credited Carson with his career. He talked about one of his very early appearances where he just plain bombed. He was doing prop schtick without enough jokes written into it, and the audience was falling asleep. At a moment like that, Carson could have decided that he was no good and never had him back again. I believe that Steve said, if that had happened he might have wound up "selling shoes for a living." But Carson saw something in him, believed in him, and had him back again. Of course, he completely killed that time, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Steve Martin writes an excellent goodbye letter to Carson. Give it a read... but get your tissues ready.