Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Spinning in Their Graves

Some of the greatest comedic geniuses are probably spinning in their graves.
Conan "My Parents Should Have Snapped My Neck at Birth" O'Brien is taking over The Tonight Show. Given O'Brien's overwhelming inanity, his complete lack of comic sense, and his overall stupidity, it's just a matter of time until The Tonight Show is dead and gone.
The original host of what would become Tonight was Steve Allen (1921-2000), a gifted comedian, writer, composer, and actor who has been credited with developing much of what defines modern variety shows. Allen hosted the show from it's 1954 debut until 1957, assisted by sidekick Gene Rayburn (who, in turn, went on to host numerous other shows, such as Match Game). Allen pioneered the "main in the street interview," still a staple of late-night television.
One of Allen's guest hosts was a little-known comedian named Johnny Carson.

In 1956, NBC offered Allen a chance to do a weekend show as well. He remained as host of Tonight Wednesdays through Fridays, with comedian Ernie Kovacs taking the Tonight reins on Mondays and Tuesdays. Kovacs, who died in 1962, was an innovator in television comedy; one of his greatest "inventions" was the Nairobi Trio - three gorillas in derby hats and long overcoats. The trio's extraordinary rendition of Solfeggio is a classic.
In January of 1957, Allen left the show permanently and NBC dropped Kovacs' participation, changing Tonight to a news-magazine format, which only lasted six months.

After the ill-fated news format, Tonight returned as a variety show with Al "Jazzbo" Collins as host for a month or so. Collins was a well-known jazz DJ who did stints on New York's WNEW radio from 1950-1960, 1981-1983, and again from 1986-1990 (when I used to listen all night, every night, working the graveyard shift on the PD). Collins' version of "Little Red Riding Hood" (adapted by Steve Allen) is well worth a listen.

Jack Paar took over in July of 1957, beginning a five-year stint as host. It was under Paar's stewardship that Tonight really became the entertainment phenomenon that it remains today.
Paar's guests tended to be more than just actors hucking their latest films, with folks like Peter Ustinov, Peggy Cass, and Zsa Zsa Gabor showing up regularly.
One of the (inadvertently) funniest bits ever to appear on television came in 1960, when studio censors cut a joke. Paar walked out in the middle of a broadcast, leaving announcer Hugh Downs to finish the show. A month later, Paar ambled out on stage and a famous line: "As I was saying before I was interrupted...I believe the last thing I said was 'There must be a better way to make a living than this.' Well, I've looked...and there isn't."
In March of 1962, Johnny Carson began his 30-year reign as the King of Late Night. Carson's era was not without turmoil, however: notable spats occurred with folks like guest host Joan Rivers, psychic Uri Gellar, Wayne Newton, Don Rickles, and Truman Capote. On the flip side, though, Carson also gave us some of the most enduring and iconic characters in American broadcast history, such as TV host Art Fern and Carnack the Magnificent.
Conan "My Parents Should Have Snapped My Neck at Birth" O'Brien made his name, so to speak, by writing for Saturday Night Live (during of its periodic tediously boring periods) and The Simpsons (Fox's horrendously miserable, poorly-animated fart fest). O'Brien -- whose hair bears a suspicious similarity to that of Jimmy Neutron, is -- to use a line from the late great Molly Ivins -- is about as funny as a heart attack.
Yes, there may be people who think Jimmy Neu-- err, O'Brien is a worthy successor to Allen, Kovacs, Paar, and Carson.
But I'm not one of them.
I think he's going to kill the show forever.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Schticks of One, Half a Dozen of the Other

1. Ummmmm, okay....

Headline on a product recall at the Comsumer Product Safety Commission website:

That seems to me to be a "well, duh" type of thing.

Turns out, the glass jar in which the candle sits may break, allowing a fire to start.
2. Life in the Slow Lane. Or not.
One of the many catchy phrases used by the State of Maine to boost tourism is "Life in the Slow Lane," generally with a drawing of a moose relaxing in a hammock.
Up in Clinton, Maine (roughly 25 miles north of Augusta on I-95), one moose apparently didn't get the memo.
A motorist reported that a 500-pound moose "fell out of the sky."
Police Chief Charles Runnels said the yearling bull probably panicked because of the noise and traffic along I-95 and began running. He said it just picked the wrong spot to jump the guardrail, falling onto a road instead of landing in a field.
There were no reports of any suspicious squirrels in the area.
3. Gay Marriage Approved by Maine Legislature
Last week, the state legislature approved a same-sex marriage bill (finally). Needless to say, the various far-right lunatics and the Catholic Church are oppsed. The Church adamantly swears that gay marriage will destroy America.
I would be a little more likely to accept the Catholic Church as moral arbiters if they didn't have so many homosexual pedophiles running around.
Let me see if I have this straight: Father Flannigan can rape all the little boys he wants, but two adult males in a long-term committed relationship are evil?