Heeeere’s Johnny!


I have learned this week that Montclair is divided into two kinds of people: those who bought their Montclair Film Festival tickets as soon as the schedule was announced and those who are sitting there scratching their heads right now going, “What? It’s sold out? I really blew it.” (You know who you are, P.S.)

Well, I have good news for those in the “I blew it camp.” One of the few films being screened twice at the festival is “Johnny Carson: King of Late Night,” which I saw last night, and there are still tickets available for the Saturday night show at 9:15.

Let me narrow the “I blew it” camp down further to people in their 40’s and up, people who will remember seeing Johnny nightly in their living rooms, or their parents’ bedrooms or their own bedrooms, and say unreservedly: go.

Go and you will relive cultural moments like Tiny Tim’s wedding to Miss Vicky on the Tonight Show in 1969. You’ll see footage of comedians performing on the tonight show for their very first time, when they were startlingly younger than they are now: Jerry Seinfeld, David Letterman, Jay Leno, Ellen DeGeneres and Drew Carey, to name a few.

For me, it was a lot like stepping into a time machine, and had a similar effect on me as visiting the LBJ ranch, which I did a few weeks ago in Texas, and seeing bright yellow kitchen counters circa 1970. There’s something there that catches your heart, something so familiar and taken-for-granted and absolutely ordinary (linoleum counters, Carson on TV) that you can’t believe it’s really gone.

The story is told quite well, from Carson’s childhood in Nebraska and his impossible-to-please mother, through his four marriages, to his feud with Joan Rivers. And there’s insight, too, into the McLuhan-esque reasons for his 30-year run as the king of late night.

Really, folks, I can’t make it any easier for you. Buy your tickets here, before they sell out.


  1. I grew up watching Johnny…loved him..in my dreams, I always wanted to take his place.

  2. For me, it was a lot like stepping into a time machine, and had a similar effect on me as visiting the LBJ ranch, which I did a few weeks ago in Texas, and seeing bright yellow kitchen counters circa 1970

    No need to go all the way to Texas to see that – those same bright yellow kitchen counters may be seen in my very own time-machine kitchen!

  3. Carson had “swag” and was always cool.

    I never was able to see Steve Allen host The Tonight Show except for some Youtube clips that are still funny. Letterman was funny for a few years especially when he was on in the morning years ago but he lost it long ago. Leno is just isn’t funny and never had an original idea. Carson did set the standard.

  4. I like Jimmy Fallon and Conan. I saw Leno in Atlantic
    City. He was funnier there than he is on the Tonight Show.

  5. Lettereman is my favorite by far – His periodic comments about Rush Limbaugh are hilarious. Keep it up, Dave.

  6. Now that the festival is over, I’ll let you in on a secret – the Carson documentary is going to be on Channel 13 on Monday, May 14. You didn’t miss it if you didn’t see it at the festival – you saved $12 for another movie! 🙂

  7. Thanks, the Duke of Prunes! Marked it on my calendar. 5/14 Channel 13 at 9 PM.

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