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tv   The Story of Late Night  CNN  November 28, 2021 12:00am-1:00am PST

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>> late night was really kind of giving us a chance to still have a sense of humor about things despite the fact that it was so serious. >> sam jackson with a new poem, and take it away, sam. >> wash your hands. stop touching your face. and stay the [ bleep ] at home. it's not necessary to salute, sir. just your hand over your heart is enough when we come out. >> he was funny. he had this aura about him. >> may orca the killer whale relieve himself on your carpets. >> he's the king of late night. but he was still a loner. >> it never occurred to me that there would be other talk shows. >> ladies and gentlemen, the reverend dr. martin luther king. >> the tension was wonderful. >> are you really all truly idiots, or is it me? >> you!
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>> but it was going to be shocking. >> the super bass-o-matic 76. >> got to get the laughs. >> we're not even going to have sex that many times again to be honest. >> it's one of the funniest things ever, and it's really real. >> i'm sorry, we're experiencing technical difficulties. >> it's so revolutionary. >> and that completely changed my life. ♪ ♪ my experience with late-night television was all about my relationship with my dad. my dad was a comedy maven. he would say, all right, you can stay up late to watch johnny. because he knew how much it meant to me. >> he'd always say, we'll just watch the monologue.
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>> i understand we have a special group tonight of little league mothers here. who brought a couple of old bats along also. >> they'd go to commercial and he'd say, let's just see if they do carnac. >> a 100-yard dash. >> a 100-yard dash. >> he was funny, and he was sharp. he had this aura about him. >> what happens after you eat a 100-yard prune? >> johnny carson was not black or white or asian or -- he was funny. and funny i think trumps everything. >> he was just part of culture. i thought that johnny carson came with the tv set. >> there are these rituals every now and then that americans all gather around. and johnny carson was the guy. >> here's johnny! >> the lights. they were bright. the curtains, they were loud. the band. doc severinsen.
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>> and there was ed mcmahon, who was fun. and johnny carson, who was even more fun. >> it brought all this energy into your little room. all of a sudden the happiest place in america was sitting at the foot of your bed. >> well, let's get right into the news. nothing could be funnier than that. >> johnny carson was the one that made late-night tv important. he's the one that changed the monologue to reactions to what happened that day. >> and it looks according to the papers as though president nixon has brought an end to the war. and i have only one question. who won? >> johnny created the system where he took each joke and put it on a board that went across the length of the studio. so that way, he could edit while he was performing. >> that coolness is unmatched. >> did you know today is the anniversary of custer's last stand? >> is that right? >> that's right.
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the guy's applauding a massacre. [ laughter ] and this is the monologue. this is carson's last stand right here. >> in johnny's monologues, when he would bomb, that was always the funniest joke. [ laughter ] >> hello. one, two. attention, kmart shoppers. >> the individual bits. carnac the magnificent. tea-time matinee. >> with the arctic wonder, you never have to worry about electrical failure because everything is built in this wonderful little freezer. how about that? that's right, friends. >> you have to remember, there was no, "i'll watch it in the morning." if you missed it, you missed it. >> they've even got a woman on the late news at 11:00. i told my wife when i'm getting ready for bed i don't want to turn on a woman. and she said don't worry, floyd, you never have. >> if you wanted to see who was
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popular in entertainment, "the tonight show" starring johnny carson back then was the only game in town. >> my age, i want two girls at once, you know. if i fall asleep, they've got each other to talk to. >> this is a little marmoset. >> a marmoset? >> you know there are guests that occasionally got cut because of the animals. that's probably a pretty tough pill to swallow. but that's how popular they were. >> isn't she cute? >> it spontaneously jumped from my hand to johnny carson's arm. and then to his shoulder. >> that's its tendency, to go to the highest point -- >> high place, yeah. [ laughter ] [ chattering ] >> was he spitting? was that saliva? >> it urinated on his head. and i said, well, he's marked your territory. he said -- >> well, i'm glad you didn't
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bring a baby elephant along. >> one of the keys was when he would turn directly into the camera and stare. so it felt like he was doing the take to you at home. >> i have never had a marmoset relieve himself on my head. ever. >> that was the beauty of johnny carson. this is a grown man who had a boyish twinkle. >> he was the most popular performer on television. but he was still a loner. >> when i got the job writing for "the tonight show," i used to watch johnny standing in the wings. and right after the theme music, johnny just came alive. johnny's only happy for that one hour of his day. >> he had a presence. and it wasn't friendly. it was aloof.
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>> people might say oh, he's conceited, he's aloof. actually, that was more shy. see, when i'm in front of an audience, it's a different thing. if i'm in front of an audience, i can feel comfortable. >> why? >> i'm in control. >> my wife didn't want to sit next to johnny at the dinner table because johnny would just sit there and not want to make any conversation. she said, please don't put me next to johnny. >> johnny was a very complicated person. >> he admired things that mattered to him. and it wasn't just comedy. >> off screen, he had his political point of view. they tended to be quite liberal, quite progressive. but by watching his show, you wouldn't be able to figure that out. >> i think it's real simple. why offend any part of the audience? he made 25% of the network revenue for nbc at one point.
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it was just not to be believed. >> and there he is in the eye of the storm. in the '60s in new york city. >> the civil rights movement. the anti-vietnam war movement. then society begins to change. >> what is the actual technique of your meditation, swami? >> the actual secret is finding the right single word to meditate on. >> any program that didn't embrace the counterculture, that didn't embrace all of this change, ran the serious risk of looking incredibly irrelevant. >> and that word was love. >> the actual word is money. >> it would have been easy for the flame of "the tonight show" to go out in 1968. it's the most dangerous moment in the johnny carson regime of "the tonight show."
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these are marijuana cigarettes. they're frequently referred to as joints. >> the communists are, it appears, trying to make 1968 the year of decision in south vietnam. >> and i want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land! >> in 1968, america was a
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pressure cooker. >> one of the biggest challenges johnny carson had was doing a comedy show in a time where the culture was changing. he had to walk this fine line between keeping his older, more traditional audience members happy and at the same time constantly trying to keep that show relevant and enough to seem like they're not completely out of touch with reality. >> we're going to show you, mrs. hodgkiss, that even from a distance of 50 feet you will be able to tell the bleer wash. may we have the two washes, please? mrs. hodgkiss, if you'll just look over here. now, mrs. hodgkiss, we have two grand kleagles here from the klan. >> carson was sort of an equal opportunity light jab guy. >> i think grand kleagle a. >> you say grand kleagle a looks the whitest. grand kleagle a, are you the whitest?
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>> now, wait a minute! >> people say he'll never take a serious controversy. tell me the last time jack benny, red skelton, any comedian used his show to do serious issues. that's not what i'm there for. can't they see that? >> but johnny was aware of all the civil rights stuff going on. and it was painful for him. >> but johnny knew if he let his personal views show, that "the tonight show" audience, it would be cut in half. he was in this bind. >> carson was a political person. and i think the best illustration of this is when he went to invite a substitute for him in 1968, he chose harry belafonte, who was known to be a progressive activist, who was interested in racial and social justice. >> do you believe that it is possible to maintain the war in vietnam and to address ourselves fully to our domestic difficulties?
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>> well, we're not. without any question we're not. >> johnny carson used all kinds of guest hosts. frequently they booked guests that johnny would not have when he was there. usually because they were too controversial. >> belafonte stacked the show full of african-american guests, activists, liberal politicians. >> ladies and gentlemen, the reverend dr. martin luther king. >> carson was making a statement without him personally making the statement. but he made the statement in a big way. >> well, i'm delighted to be here, harry. i flew out of washington this afternoon, and as soon as we started out, they notified us that the plane had mechanical difficulties. and whenever i land after mechanical difficulties, i'm always very happy. now, i don't want to give you the impression that as a baptist preacher i don't have faith in
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god in the air. it's simply that i've had more experience with him on the ground. >> carson loved watching this week because harry belafonte said a lot of things johnny wished he could have said. >> but it was a bold thing to do, because it was a volatile time. he lost a whole southern audience because he did that. >> good night. thank you for being with us. >> carson was so popular, as soon as he came back the audience came flooding back to him. >> two of the guests that belafonte had interviewed would be assassinated. >> dr. martin luther king has been shot to death in memphis, tennessee. >> and then two months later, robert kennedy. >> when there are terrible events, late night is a wonderful thing to have. because you know, these are people who have a talent to say the right thing at the right time. >> if we cannot learn to live together in this country, i don't know how in hell's sake we
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are ever going to learn to live with anybody else in the world. >> it's almost as if they're speaking only to you. and that stays with us, especially when it comes from someone you have been with in those quiet hours when the phone doesn't ring, when the kids are in bed, when you're less likely to be fiddling with the remote control. >> when bobby kennedy was assassinated, it was really hard for johnny. he was friends with kennedy. >> johnny carson did something that he had never done before. and i don't know that he ever did again. >> good evening and thank you for joining us tonight. as i think no explanation is necessary, we don't plan to do the usual "tonight show" format this evening. >> you finally got a glimpse of who johnny carson actually was behind the sort of show business veneer. >> the people who have been assassinated like the kennedys and martin luther king express definite opinions of change, and
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they touch people emotionally, much more than -- >> i think carson's greatest gift was the ability to talk to a wide range of people and get just about everybody in the room on his side. carson was kind of a glue during some really harsh times in this country. >> it's not new, and i don't think this country has a priority on assassinations or on hate. >> somehow johnny carson has walked this tightrope and managed to stay relevant on either side of the late 1960s, where everything changed. and that's what made him the king of late night. >> all i can say is i hope robert kennedy would have liked this program. good night. so you can enjoy it even if you're sensitive to dairy. so anyone who says lactaid isn't real milk is also saying mabel here isn't a real cow. and she really hates that.
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♪ johnny carson had basically the field open to himself till about '67. >> tempo, tempo. >> other networks coveted the revenue stream, but they were all afraid to go up against johnny carson. >> eventually, they were like, okay, enough of nbc raking in millions of dollars off this territory. >> that's it, bennie. ♪ >> and they started putting up joey bishop. >> it's time for joey. ♪ >> joey bishop was very different from johnny carson.
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joey was a more urban guy from south philadelphia. >> i'm starting the show like this tonight, and i understand next week johnny carson may do a show just like this. [ laughter ] >> bishop was a -- this strange show. it's almost flukish to watch. >> are we on? >> yes. [ laughter ] >> the reason i ask is because it's going so slow. >> joey was often in a bad mood. >> for a guy who don't show up for rehearsals you sure talk a lot. i'll tell you that. >> cbs, meanwhile, hires merv griffin, who had been doing a great syndicated black-and-white talk show for westinghouse. >> it's "the merv griffin show!" >> merv griffin was just light and fun and fluffy. ♪ what do you get when you fall in love ♪ >> he loved everybody. and he had the funniest people on.
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>> here's woody allen! >> i'm too cowardly to be a protest comic. i'm in favor of all those things that we've come to know and hate about -- >> merv griffin, despite almost a milquetoast reputation, was always more willing to have people on that represented aspects of the counterculture. >> dr. timothy leary has been described as being either a prophet or a fiend. >> how many times have you taken lsd, doctor? >> i've taken lsd 311 times. >> in 1969 when "the merv griffin show" debuted on cbs, for the first time ever you have what you would now call the late-night wars. merv versus joey versus johnny. >> there's been much discussion in the papers and in magazines about the three-way competition. and i want to set the record straight. i think carson does a great job. bishop does a great job.
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we're going to try to entertain you. and there's room for everybody. and may the best man win. >> "the merv griffin show" really cut into joey bishop's audience in a big way. >> and then when joey bishop didn't work, they thought let's go a little younger and a little more new york. >> ladies and gentlemen, dick cavett! ♪ >> dick cavett was our first intellectual on television. >> i'm dick cavett. funnier than chet huntley, taller than mickey rooney and as pure and honest as newark, new jersey. >> johnny was awfully nice to me when i started doing a show. he gave me advice when i'd call him. and i realized then that johnny does not, as they say, have a ramrod up his ass. >> what does carson not have that maybe a competing talk show could use to draw viewers away?
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well, abc thought the answer was a combination of entertainment and thinking. >> will you welcome, please, salvador dali. i can't help noticing that you have an anteater with you, mr. dali. >> dick cavett was one of the last great unscripted shows where anything could happen. >> i want to ask all of you something. are you really all truly idiots, or is it me? >> you! >> oh, that was the easy answer. come on. >> the tension was wonderful in that studio. >> why don't you apologize to the people for calling people that are my admirers bigots? >> i remember one show where lester maddox, the segregationist governor of georgia, he's on with jim brown. >> if i called any of your admirers bigots who are not bigots, i apologize. >> it got exciting. when i offended the guests. >> wait a minute. wait a minute. there's more time.
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>> when i envisioned doing a talk show, i never thought much about, what happens if there's some spectacular events going on in the world? >> the democratic national committee is trying to solve a spy mystery. five intruders were captured by police inside the offices of the committee in washington. >> i will do everything in my power to ensure that the guilty are brought to justice. >> i was so enchanted with watergate. i don't know that i missed any of the hearings. and i realized, i like it when ice gets thin. >> hello. i'm dick cavett. and i can't believe where i am at this moment. maybe you can't either. i'm seated now in i guess what has been called the hottest chair in the country. >> dick cavett was doing shows from the watergate hearings in the room. >> what do you say to the people who say this whole fuss, what's it all about? every administration has lied. every administration has tapped, wired, cheated, so on. this one just had the bad luck to get caught.
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>> i'm told that i'm on the nixon tapes 26 times. i later found out that he audited my staff. >> by the way, when i was sitting in that witness chair, i felt guilty. it's a very strange feeling sitting there. >> may have been the first one. >> dick cavett was doing things that carson wasn't in ways that carson wasn't. >> i got used as a stick to beat johnny. somebody made the smart-ass remark, we can count on cavett to have somebody from watergate on while johnny has charo. >> but more people liked carson, and cavett could never crack that. >> you're tangled up in your
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♪ i see trees of green ♪ ♪ red roses too ♪ ♪ i see them bloom for me and you ♪ (music) ♪ so i think to myself ♪ ♪ oh what a wonderful world ♪ in the late '60s, television was so monochromatic. literally. there was just no color. >> johnny carson was kind of
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generic. and i think being generic is part of the appeal. >> my uncle ellis haizlip saw the model that was set for late night and said, well, we need a place of our own because we don't see ourselves on television. and he did that with a show called "soul." ♪ >> good evening. i'm ellis haizlip, and i welcome you to another "soul" episode. >> ellis haizlip was the host. he was hip. he was smart. he was unapologetically gay. >> so let's have a real "soul" welcome for barbara -- >> "soul" is on public television, which is completely different from what's happening on abc, nbc, and cbs. >> sitting with me now is brother bill withers. >> james baldwin. >> billy preston. >> you're seeing african-american artists and icons being themselves. >> what advice would you like to offer the young guys coming up
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that are interested in sports? >> use their brains and not their fists. if they have anything to do with boxing, be the manager because usually they get all the money. >> after almost 130 episodes, "soul" was gorgeous. ♪ but in the end, when pbs announced its fall lineup for 1973, "soul" was not renewed for the funding. >> historically, a show like "soul" is very important. without "soul" you maybe don't have an arsenio hall. at the same time, it's never going to have the same impact as "the tonight show" because the money behind it and the circumstances behind it just are not equal. >> carson starts in 1962. he's a huge success by 1972. >> in 1972 peter lassally, who was then the producer of "the tonight show," felt it was time to move the show to the west coast.
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♪ >> you could get better guests out here, and it was just easier than in new york. >> and johnny of course loved the lifestyle of california. so that helped convince johnny that it was the right move, to move the show to burbank. >> where were you all last night when i was uncrating my piano? i didn't see anybody helping me unpack. >> he's royalty at this point. carson's hair even got sort of a more of a silver corona. >> that's a new picture of you over there. >> humble little touch in the studio. a little humility there. >> carson was the most important star at nbc, but he wanted to work fewer days of the week. >> and in a weird way, johnny carson is responsible for "snl." in the early '70s, they would
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show the best of "the tonight show" on saturday night on nbc. and carson was like, what if we take the best of carson and instead of having it on saturday night, we'll put it on monday night? i can take monday off, play tennis, relax. >> early july of 1974, i was a full-time employee of sports and the ceo of nbc said to me, i'd like you to come here and help us build a new late-night franchise on saturday night. it was crazy. i mean, i knew nothing about entertainment or comedy. then i met lorne michaels. >> i'd been in l.a. for almost four years. i'd done "the lily tomlin show" earlier. and every time i worked on a pilot of some sort, it would always be you can't do this, you can't do that. television had become so -- not
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fossilized but a lot of restrictions. >> i don't understand what's bothering you. >> well, i'll tell you what's bothering me. i'm a grown man. you've got me all dressed up in this silly bunny outfit. >> a meeting is set up for lorne and i with johnny. >> it was more courtesy than anything else. >> he was very welcoming. "okay, boys, tell me about the show." >> and it was funny because he kept saying, 90 minutes one time a week. and he was doing five nights of 90 minutes. and we were so precious and thoughtful about what we were going to do in our one. >> the concept was regular programming has stopped at 11:30, and these young kids have taken over the network. >> i think we were by definition disruptive. the thing about live for me was the network will see it the same time that the audience does. and i thought if i could just get through to the audience that
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was interested in music and politics and films and all that was happening in 1975 that it would be a hit. >> live from new york, it's saturday night! >> super bass-o-matic 76 is the tool that lets you use the whole bass with no fish waste, with no scaling, cutting or gutting. that bass is blended just the way you like it. >> it's so revolutionary. it's so anything goes. >> yes! aah! hey! >> lorne says that if you listen to the early shows, you're always going to hear, "ha! ha!" and it was me trying to start laughter on sketches that the audience had no idea what the hell we were doing. >> telegram. >> oh, telegram. just a moment. [ screaming ]
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>> i loved that energy and the danger of it being live. it just felt very cool. felt like hey, when i get older i want to move to new york city. >> welcome to the first of three televised presidential debates between president gerald r. ford and his challenger, governor jimmy carter of georgia. >> johnny carson did not like "saturday night live." they did a few jokes about him. and johnny thought that they were mean-spirited. >> "the tonight show" starring johnny carson will be broadcast live on the nbc tv network. carson, who has been doing the show dead for the past 15 years, could not explain how he was going to make that transition. >> "saturday night live" did not change my opinion of johnny carson. there's a sophistication there. he's wearing a tie. and then suddenly on "saturday night live" you have burt reynolds. it looked like he was just walking into a 7-eleven to buy
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some beef jerky. >> thank you! i know, i know. i have to live with it every day. >> the big revolution of "saturday night live," it's very hard to explain to people today. is that nobody's wearing a tie. >> lorne changed comedy forever with that show. and the proof of it, it's 43 years later and people are still watching it.
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are you a christian author with a book that you're ready to share with the world? get published now, call for your free publisher kit today! you know there's no greater thrill for me personally than to have somebody come out here who's unknown and stand up in front of an audience and absolutely wipe them out the first appearance coast to coast. that's great. >> thank you. >> "the tonight show" with steve allen and with jack paar had broken comedians. but johnny carson kind of took it to a different level. >> in the early '70s, if you didn't have "the tonight show" you did not have a career in comedy. >> jim mccauley was the talent coordinator for "the tonight show" and he would come into the clubs. >> mccauley was at that time the most powerful person in comedy because he had the ear to johnny carson.
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>> when he was in the club, i would get nervous just seeing him in the club. >> if jim believed in a comic, he booked him. i think johnny had such faith in his choices. >> i was still doing the day job. i was delivering futons. and mccauley came into a club one night. >> italians. we're italian. italians here? [ cheers ] not too many. there's more. there's a whole bunch here. they're just -- they're on the witness protection program. [ laughter ] >> he told my manager, let's get him on. let's get him on. >> they said, oh, johnny carson wants you to do the show. and i was like, really? they're like, yes. i was like, okay. i call my mother and i said, guess what? she said, what? i said, i'm doing johnny carson. she said, no. >> i remember the first time i went on. it was just like losing your virginity. once you go through that wall, then you're forever on that side. people who have done "the tonight show."
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>> you know, i always say i have two birthdays. the day i was born, april 22nd, 1961. and the day i did "the tonight show" with johnny carson. >> we originally offered byron a shot on "the tonight show" last february. and he turned it down. he said he couldn't make it that night because he had to do his homework. true story. >> i'm 18. and i remember thinking, what i do in the next five minutes will change my life forever. >> i'm back behind the curtain. my hands literally like seized up. what is this? i can't move my hands. i was so paralyzed with fear. >> it's almost like skydiving. you don't want to go. but once you're out of that plane, you can't not go. >> you know, i've been incarcerated. i don't think anything's been as frightening as walking through that curtain of "the tonight show." >> this is his first time. would you welcome ray romano? ray? >> then you're walking and it looks like it's as casual as hell. and in your head you're screaming like you're jumping
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out of a plane. >> first time on "the tonight show." i'm still a bit nervous. i'll be honest with you. and maybe you are too. let me ask you honestly, how many of you would really rather skip this and go for coffee? anybody at all? >> take a look to your right and see johnny carson sitting there. an out-of-body experience. >> i'm an only child. and being latino i know you guys are thinking, that's ethnically impossible. [ laughter ] >> it's you and a microphone and a spotlight. >> see, because i have a real hip teacher. gives us problems we can relate to. it's like if bob has 100 hostess twinkies, eats 87 of them, how many joints did he smoke? [ laughter ] >> when it's "my son," it's going really well. >> my son and i were out fishing in a motor boat. he's 5 years old. i'm driving along. he goes dad, can i drive? i'm like, sure. and i hit this joke and boom.
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it doesn't dawn on me it might be dangerous. i'm thinking i get to sit up front. >> it exploded. it was big. i hear johnny laughing. boom. this is so great. drew a blank. forgot my next joke. i can remember the panic running up my spine. i was like, ah, man. things are crazy. crazy! and it reminded me of my next joke. >> sooner or later they're going to make a phone into a little microchip that everyone will just have surgically implanted in their ear, and that will be the end of it. wherever you go. oh, i've got a call. oh, hi, joe. what's up? yeah, how are you? oh, my other line. i've got to put you on hold. [ laughter ] >> it's my gold medal. high point in my career. >> i'm talking to joe. i'll put you on conference. you guys talk to each other. >> it went exactly the way i thought it would go. i'll never forget that moment. >> take a bow, byron. [ cheers and applause ] >> i finished. johnny gave me -- >> one of these. >> i walked off like an athlete
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wins the super bowl. >> i was like, you've got to be kidding me. >> next day, offers stacked to the sky. stacked to the sky. and never looked back. >> outside of my kids being born, and i'm only saying that because you're supposed to, it was the coolest moment of my life. it was great. it was a great night. >> everybody loves carson and considers him to be this really important figure in their lives who made their careers. of course we don't hear from the female performers who struggled in comedy in general, who might not have gotten that chance. >> every time i went on for the bookers they'd say no, no, he's not going to like it. no, no, no. so i never got on "the tonight show" forever. unbeknownst to me, helen reddy was going to guest host. helen said, should i put elayne boosler on?
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i hear she's great. put her on. >> will you please welcome a brand-new comedy talent, elayne boosler. >> fancy restaurants are very confusing. because you do what you have to do, you come out. there's an attendant there. you have to tip this person. i have never figured out. 15% of what? [ laughter ] >> i got 13 applause breaks. it was unheard of. >> you're really good. >> thank you. so are you. >> you excited? >> yes. >> the night before i did "the tonight show," i couldn't buy a piece of carrot cake. two nights after "the tonight show," i bought a car. >> so nice to hear somebody talking about all the things that make women laugh. >> i hope everybody got it. >> oh, i think so. >> so the road to fame and fortune is through studio 1 in burbank where they now tape "the tonight show" starring johnny carson. david letterman. he goes to l.a. to get on "the tonight show." jay leno, he's from boston and new york, he goes to l.a. and suddenly the great comedy
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where's mom? she said she would be home in time for the show. don't worry sweetie, she promised she'd be here for it. oh! nice shot! thanks! glad we have xfinity. with wifi speeds faster than a gig. me too. [claps] woah! look! [chuckles] mom is on tv! she's amazing! [screams and laughter] yeah! xfinity brought us together after all. get started with xfinity internet and ask about wifi speed fast than a gig. click, call or visit a store today.
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here come the smart alecks! meet the always provocative david letterman! >> letterman was just a natural television personality.
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>> let me say i have been in amusement parks all over this great land of ours. but this right here is perhaps the most exciting moment of my life. >> he came out of indianapolis. perfect midwest. did the weather. >> portions of indiana at one point yesterday were under a flash flood warning -- >> he had just driven out in like an orange-red pickup truck because he didn't think he was going to make it. >> his dream was to someday host "the tonight show." >> my best friend says to me, he goes, i want you to see this young comedian named david letterman. he says, this guy's going to be the next johnny carson. >> you folks read "the enquirer"? sometimes there are silly stories in there, like last week, how to lose weight without diet or exercise. pretty much leaves disease, doesn't it? >> and he was okay. and i said, i honestly don't see the carson thing. >> welcome, please, david letterman. david? >> it was fascinating watching letterman do his first "tonight show."
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>> how to lose weight, without diet or exercise. pretty much leaves disease, doesn't it? you know, when you get right down to it? >> he was move-in ready. he was just letterman. >> i have a feeling on, your shot on this show tonight, you're going to be working a lot outside the comedy store. >> thank you. >> i hope you'll come back with us. >> i'd love to. >> we'll be right back. >> letterman got chances, because johnny carson, the most powerful man in television, was behind him. >> there was a fire in laurel canyon not too long ago. and i lost, like, an entire set of dishes, you know? well, you know how paper burns. >> does standup twice, and then they asked him to guest host the show. it's quite remarkable. >> and now, here's david letterman! >> he always looked like a talk show host. i could see that he had that -- that hosty thing. he is the hostiest.
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>> your tie is interesting. looks like there was a big remnant sale down at carpet city. >> then, out of the blue, he suddenly gets a morning show. >> it's "the david letterman show" live! >> it was wildly inappropriate for the morning. wildly inappropriate. he had to take the show because he wanted to be on television. >> good morning, good morning. thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, welcome. could i -- could i have the ladder, please? >> i thought doing a morning show didn't make any sense, because it didn't seem to be a time of day that i would watch a show. >> we had to change a bulb yesterday, and since no one else was available, i said, what the heck? give it to me, and i'll do it. and here is a pesky little -- this is an a-16 -- >> the morning show was largely kind of an on-the-air audition because we had many obstacles to overcome. >> it was written with meryl marco, who was his girlfriend. >> the morning show was a crash
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course in how to write a david letterman talk show. >> meryl marco was a genius. she understood how important foolishness was. >> merrill marco was the soul of our show. >> excuse me, ladies and gentlemen, i'm sorry. we're experiencing technical difficulties. >> lemonade and what looks like minnows, a thing full of minnows, dave. >> she came up with stupid pet tricks and viewer mail. >> i'm going to introduce now our first pet and his owner in "stupid pet tricks," ladies and gentlemen. history is being made here today. >> all the remotes. >> you just can't beat eating near a cab, a truck, or a bus. >> the whole show is all from her mind. >> if anybody had watched the show from the first day, i think they would have seen a really strange kind of experimental
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evolution. >> hi there, good morning and welcome to "the david letterman show." my name, of course, is david letterman. >> i remember very clearly, my senior year in high school. i'm rushing out the door. my sister kate yells out, you got -- get back here. get back here. you got to see this. >> and just get ready to enjoy "the david letterman show." we'll be right back. >> everything was off. and i was hooked. >> we're outside of the rca building this morning -- >> we seemed to be building a cult following of sorts. >> but it's a lot easier -- >> but the ratings didn't seem to be that good. >> we came to that show thinking we had all of the answers, and we realized we didn't have hardly a clue. >> i would just make a brief announcement here, and then we will move on. a week from friday is our last show. we've been canceled. october 24th, that's it.
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>> and i think that cancelation probably changed him. >> it was a great period of anxiety for me. i was worried that i'd never get >> i was worried that i would never get another shot. >> he was not at all happy. he thought his career was over. live from cnn world headquarters in atlanta, welcome to all of you watching us here in the united states, canada, and around the world. i'm kim brunhuber. this is "cnn newsroom." new cases, new restrictions, new fears. the new omnicon covid variant spreading across the world. plus, smash and grab robberies plagued the u.s. just in time for the holidays. and democracy at risk in latin american. we're keeping an eye on elections in honduras.


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