What I Learned from Johnny Carson

Everyone knows that Johnny Carson died Sunday. When I was young, between 12 and 15 I did not get Johnny Carson. I did not know why he was such a big deal. If there as an actor I liked on the show I would find some way to stay up late, but I really did not understand Johnny Carson's Humor. At this time I loved David Letterman. It was easy to see his edgy humor.

In high school I started to watch Johnny do his monologue. When I started to watch him do his monologue every night, I really go it. The best monologues were the one where Johnny would bomb a joke in the first 30 seconds or so. Right after the joke bombed he would make a joke about the joke bombing. After that whenever another joke bombed he would reference that first joke again. Every time he would reference that first joke he would get bigger and bigger laughs. By the end of the monologue he would have bombed a half dozen or more times, but the audience as crying laughing. That audience included my family.

I learned this tactic. I am no comic, but I like to make jokes. When I am sitting at the lunch table at work or the coffee house I like to make people laugh. It is good to have a back up plan just in case you bomb. You can cut that uncomfortable moment by saying "That was much funnier in my head."

Comics still do this today. If you watch David Letterman or John Stewart you will see them use this tactic. They pulling a trick out of Johnny Carson's bag every time they do it. It is a great bag to have available. Johnny Carson is the template for a lot of acts on TV. I think that you have to be great if so many people can copy you and be successful.


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