Talk show hosts could learn from Johnny Carson |

Talk show hosts could learn from Johnny Carson

I came across some old episodes of the Tonight Show starring with Johnny Carson the other night and decided to watch it as I needed some comic relief.

Those of you who watched Carson back in the day will remember that he made fun of everyone. I don’t even know if he was a liberal or a conservative based on his monologues. In the few episodes I watched he poked fun at former President’s Nixon, Reagan and Carter. That’s because he knew his job was to entertain everyone regardless of our political proclivity.

Carson also made fun of other celebrities, which I don’t think any current late night show hosts would ever do.

These days all of the late night hosts and some of the morning and afternoon talk show hosts have an axe to grind. And they are all worried about their ratings, which makes me wonder why they don’t try to appeal to all Americans.

That doesn’t mean that Carson didn’t have strong views and opinions. According to Wikipedia, “Carson opposed the Vietnam War and capital punishment, favored racial equality, and was against criminalizing extramarital sex and pornography. He avoided explicitly mentioning his views on The Tonight Show, saying he “hates to be pinned down” as that would “hurt me as an entertainer, which is what I am.” As he explained in 1970, “In my living room I would argue for liberalization of abortion laws, divorce laws, and there are times when I would like to express a view on the air. I would love to have taken on Billy Graham. But I’m on TV five nights a week; I have nothing to gain by it and everything to lose.” He also seldom invited political figures onto the Tonight Show because he “didn’t want it to become a political forum” and did not want the show used, by himself or others, to influence the opinions of the viewers.

I think that should be a lesson for all, so-called, performers. There is a place for political rhetoric on the editorials pages of newspaper and from political pundits on television.

After watching episodes of Johnny Carson one night, I switched to the Carol Burnett Show the following night. Now I’m ready for the weekend.


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