Over the past two weeks as the trade papers and pundits talk about the open feud between Jay Leno, Conan O’ Brien, and NBC I have thought about another pair of guys who made “The Tonight Show” a television landmark. Jack Paar and Johnny Carson were instrumental in the formation of late-night television. Yes, Steve Allen pre-dated Paar , but it was Jack Parr followed by host Johnny Carson that produced the hugely successful effort by NBC to make late-night TV commercially viable. As Leno and O’Brien fight over the dollars and fame that comes with being on after late local news, I think it best to show two statesmen of late night TV from a 1986 video clip .
I do want to point out in this era of multi-million dollar deals for late-night chat and humor, that Jack Paar (as noted in this video) would make more in one single hour for a retrospective show in 1986 than he made in any one year while hosting ‘The Tonight Show’. While I support Conan O’Brien fully in his challenges with Jay Leno and NBC, I am also mindful that no one is really a loser when dealing with the salaries that are being talking about today.
So let us travel back to the time when “The Tonight Show” was truly worthy of our time. The time when Johnny Carson ruled late night. Here now, Johnny and Jack with class and style.