Friday, January 28, 2005

The Passing of a Show Biz Giant

Cold Fury links to a really nice column by comedian Larry Miller, who you may remember from his fantastic standup act or maybe as the hostage negotiator character in Best In Show who flirted heavily with Catherine O'Hara's character, to Eugene Levy's character's dismay, at the dinner table. He's hilarious, and a great actor, and an even better writer.

Miller pays homage to Johnny Carson better than anyone else I have heard or read since Carson's death, in a thoroughly poetic and hilarious tribute here. It's one of the best things I've read this month.

I loved Carson; I can hear the theme song in my head and it gives me that "you're in for a truly entertaining 90 minutes" feeling even today. I was born in 1964, so Johnny was still seriously cool when I first saw him. Performers did their best work on the Tonight Show, and it showed. Getting a compliment from Johnny after your act meant you had arrived, and it changed your level of fame permanently, and seriously increased your currency in the entertainment world. Johnny made America feel good every weeknight for 30 years, and without him there would be no Leno or Letterman. I miss you, Johnny. See you on the other side.

Speaking of Leno and Letterman (and Best in Show, for that matter), one of the best things HBO ever made was The Late Shift, an up-close look at the battle for the Tonight Show. Kathy Bates is in top form as Leno's former agent, and John Michael Higgins, who played Michael McKean's gay lover in Best in Show, does a really fantastic Letterman impression. Rich Little appears briefly as Carson giving Letterman advice on how to deal with NBC's snub, reminding us what a force he was even in retirement. Great movie.

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