Thursday, March 13, 2014

Late Nights

I remember how comforting Johnny Carson's monologues were. He was a sophisticated version of my image of Mr. Nice guy, somebody who could sum up the events of the day and make me smile about it all. I felt all of America was watching, allowing him into our bedrooms as we wound up our day by giving us his insights and humor, and helping us focus on the events of our time. Not particularly political, but fair--with a bright, critical mind and a wry perspective that led us to believe there was sanity in the world. That was a different era, all right.

Not particularly plagued with insomnia, and relocated from the Central Time Zone that placed "late night" television at 10 P.M., I seldom watched the comedy shows that followed Carson's. Jay Leno didn't have the zip, the pertinence or the impertinence, that Carson had. David Letterman never moved me. I did enjoy Conan O'Brien--what happened to him anyway?--and adore Craig Ferguson's antic Scottishness when I do happen to find myself jolted from sleep in the wee hours.

Now I have a new love in my late nights. Jimmy Fallon has been on a while, and his talent has long intrigued me. I liked him on Saturday Night Live and often switched from Ferguson to him, back and forth, in my surfing in the night. He's got the big spot now, taking over Johnny's show after Leno left, and the reviews are good. Fallon is a comic actor who uses the television medium superbly, often just changing the look in his eyes to get laughter. He can do imitations, funny voices, and he knows what he wants to say, always coming across as the sassy kid from the neighborhood who is going to do well when he figures out what he wants to do in life.

He's followed by Seth Myers, also a Saturday Night Live alum, a smart comedian with a good attitude and a bit of an edge. Myers did the "news" spot on SNL, and I had thought of him as a natural to work on The Daily Show, as he has that savvy touch with the topical and the instincts of a writer as well a knack with a laugh line. He was the perfect emcee at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, a dubious gig at best, and I was looking forward to seeing how he would be with his own talk show. I have since caught it and I agree that he's a worthy addition to the late-night lineup. Affable, intelligent, he brings a cerbral skill set to an interview, and he makes the viewer feel comfortable in the eternally cool medium of television.
I'm still not going to stay up to watch these guys. But now there is this thing on my television that records a show so I can watch it when I want to, and can even fast-forward through annoying commercials or segments that I don't care for. I've been employing that for Jon Stewart's (The Daily Show) for years, watching it at the hour I once reserved for network news.

Now I'm watching the late night comedians at the time of my choice, and I must say these two new entries are very encouraging about the state of the world. When the reality is oppressing and terrifying, society creates great comedians to help us through. They are here, folks. And I'm watching again.


  1. I just LOVE Jimmy Fallon! He's so cute--and just happens to be hilarious.

  2. I've seen 'em come and I've seen 'em go. Nobody has topped Johnny Carson. But I wonder if his brand of casual humor would work as well with audiences today?