Posts Tagged ‘Charlie Chaplin’

Carson’s Clout

February 10, 2014

Friday February 7th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Jay Leno’s tenure has ended as host of The Tonight Show, but the only thing that pops into my mind is the amazing run Johnny Carson had. Nobody will ever again come close to the incredible dominance that Johnny achieved, and maintained for thirty years. Today’s world is not the same.

Just as Cy Young’s record of 522 pitching victories will never be threatened much less broken, Johnny’s impact on late night television carries the same enormous presence. Everyone after him will forever be compared, and they’ll lose – especially by those of us who watched him firsthand.

I remember sneaking out of bed as a kid when I was supposed to be sleeping and turning on the TV to see the comedians Johnny would introduce. It was a thrill to be up when I wasn’t supposed to be, and then in the summer when I could stay up I’d watch the whole show almost every night.

This took place over years, as it did with millions of other Americans. He was truly the king of late night TV, mainly because there was no real competition. Today there are not only too many actual shows competing, but that pesky little internet tosses a few ice cubes on the fire as well.

We’re all scattered more than ever, but Johnny came along at a time when the rich got richer to the point of ridiculous, and there was nobody else. Charlie Chaplin had that status in movies, but he was way before my time. Johnny is part of my childhood, and millions of others’ too. He’s the standard bearer, and even though he’s been off the air for 22 years he is still held in high esteem.

Earlier this week I finally picked up the controversial biography aptly titled “Johnny Carson” written by Johnny’s former lawyer and cohort Henry ‘Bombastic’ Bushkin. I remember Johnny talking about him in his monologues, but had no idea until way later it was based on a real guy.

I’d heard a lot about the book for a while, and was looking forward to reading it. I really liked the PBS documentary a while back about Johnny, and I thought they were fair with portraying a no holds barred picture of what he was really like. Johnny had human flaws as we all do, but he also was one of the biggest celebrities of the 20th century. He got to go where few others tread.

The book was an easy read, and I thought it was well written. Like with another book I really liked, “Ball Four” by Jim Bouton, it stepped on toes because it painted a real picture of someone the public viewed as super human. Mickey Mantle was a human just like Johnny was. Period.

I don’t look any less at Johnny Carson because of his shortcomings, and in fact that makes the whole story more fascinating. We all dream of attaining that kind of status, but it doesn’t promise a care free existence for those precious few that get there. Mickey and Johnny were both troubled to a certain degree, and fell short of where they probably could have been. It adds to their legend.

Jay Leno is completely different than Johnny. I have nothing bad to say about him, and he was absolutely ‘the man’ when it came to standup comedy in the ‘80s. He was the top banana for sure and Jerry Seinfeld was second. Then there was everyone else. That was no small feat, and neither was hosting a network talk show for 22 years. Jay has had a fabulous career, and I don’t think he is done yet. He’ll surface somewhere else, you watch. But no matter what, Johnny’s still on top.

Jay Leno hosted a successful network talk show for 22 years. That's no small accomplishment.

Jay Leno hosted a successful network television talk show for 22 years. That’s no small accomplishment.

But no matter what, to a generation of Americans Johnny Carson will always be the king.

But no matter what, to a generation of Americans Johnny Carson will always be the king. Period.

A Human Armadillo

June 11, 2013

Sunday June 9th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   Back up on life’s horse. I’ve been kicked off before, and will get it again. It’s not the end of the world to get blown out of that contest yesterday, but the way it happened was extra harsh. I drew a bad spot on a bad night, and that’s all it means. Everything else that led up to it doesn’t matter – at least not on paper. It just hurts to have put in all these years and get rejected one more time.

   An entertainer has to have a thick skin – almost to the point of being a human armadillo. We’re constantly getting stiffed, jilted and ignored from every angle, and it’s usually by someone who’s never been on a stage even one time. These ‘experts’ run the show, and we’re just pieces of meat to be bought, sold or traded like baseball cards. The ones with talent rarely get to call the shots.

   I read once where Charlie Chaplin entered a Charlie Chaplin lookalike contest and placed third. That doesn’t surprise me in the least. Even if that particular tale isn’t true, I’ll bet something like it has happened to a celebrity at some point. There are always glitches and snafus to overcome.

   The best thing to do is just laugh it off and keep moving. That’s very easy to say, but when one gets one’s ‘nads kicked with a steel toed work boot it tends to muddy the logical thought process at least temporarily. My goal has never been to win any contests of any kind. My goal is to find a way to have a career in show business rather than just a job. This was just a means to that end.

   Everybody takes lumps, it’s just that mine seem to be coming out of order. I’ve made it all the way through the thickest part of the jungle, and now I’m getting tangled in the short grass. That’s not how it’s supposed to work. I’m going to dust myself off and get back on some kind of a trail.

   If nothing else, I have the ideal set of problems. I’ve paid my dues and have some natural skills and I’m just one killer show away from going to a whole other level. That’s much better than the majority of everyone else who has little to no experience, but assumes they’re going to magically skip past that pesky ‘hard work and sacrifice’ part and shoot straight to stardom. Best o’ luck!

   Unfortunately, luck does play a role in show business success and it’s not a tiny one. It happens to be a major speaking role, and it has a lot to say as to who will or won’t catch all the necessary breaks required to launch a legitimate career. There are intangibles that have to happen at exactly the right time in the right order, and nobody can control it all. One either hits pay dirt or doesn’t.

   I don’t know if I will or I won’t, but if I do it’s been such a long wait it’ll be pay dust or even a fossil. I hope I hit something while I’m still young enough to enjoy solid foods. How Mr. Lucky would it be to finally have my ship come in but I’m too old to enjoy any of it? I don’t think steak tastes as good drinking it out of a blender, and even a Gucci colostomy bag wouldn’t be stylish.

   Although I didn’t especially feel like it, I crawled out of the rack early this morning and started immediately to work on my million dollar ideas. I spent two hours going through my curriculum for comedy classes so I can get a version online soon. I also spent two hours creating my ‘Schlitz Happened!’ blog to be used as content for the website. It’s www.schlitzhappened.blogspot.com.

  The life of an entertainer is always a matter of dodging bullets and searching for new routes that bypass clueless idiots in charge who clog the toilet for no good reason. Part of the game is trying to stay out of their circle of influence, but it’s tough because there are so many. It’s a big conflict inside to be both human and creative but also hard and callous enough to survive in the business.