Sometime last year, I was surprised to find that Johnny Carson was neither dead nor doing anything regarded as news-worthy. How does a person so important just disappear like that?
There was a time in the ’80s, when I was just out of high school and starting college, and I could remember when we might all die at any moment due to a Soviet nuclear strike. What was I going to do with my life? Would Ann ever be interested in me? Would we all die tomorrow? For some reason, all of those questions seemed to melt away with Johnny’s monologue. It felt like people somewhere were awake, and Johnny was making jokes like he had the night before; therefore, the world was likely to continue in some predictable way, and I could relax.
As much as I’ve liked other latenight shows and hosts, I’ve never had for them the same positive, sentimental feelings that I had for Johnny Carson. I’m sure that was more the result of my age and experiences at the time than Johnny, but the fondness did exist. I’m sorry Johnny’s dead, though it felt like he left us a long time ago (though CNN’s obituary says that he wrote jokes for Dave).
In Dramarama‘s "Last Cigarette", John Easdale sings, "You don’t have to hear the headlines, you can hear what Johnny Carson said". I suppose many of us almost feel that way about John Stewart now.