Jack Paar became a big presence in all our lives when I entered high school and got to stay up an extra hour each night. We were living in the Midwest at the time, in the Central Time Zone, so we got the "Tonight Show" on our TV an hour earlier than the East Coast did. 10:30 instead of 11:30 PM. Nightly talk shows were 90 minutes long at the time. --It wasn't until many years later that Johnny Carson shortened it to one hour. We received only two TV channels then, and almost all of the shows on at night were weekly--once a week--and most of them were westerns or detective dramas. But here was a show--with a "cast" of real characters that came on every single night of the week. It was like we were looking into their lives (all of which seemed related to each others')--Hermione Gingold, Mrs. Miller, Charlie Weaver, Alexander King, Robert Merril. These people seemed to live in some universe where they all knew each other and had lives in common and they all talked with Jack on his show. (A 1950s TV show contemporary to Jack Paar's--"WHAT"S MY LINE"--had a similar cast of New York sophisticates who all seemed to hang out together--but it was much more boring--who the hell were Bennett Cerf and Dorothy Kilgallen and Fred Allen?--just talking faces in tuxedos or rather tatty-looking evening gowns.) Maybe none of the people on either of these shows had what producers today would call "TVQ"--personal charisma or appeal on a TV screen-- like the actors on say "Friends" or Dennis Franz on NYPD Blue do. But the people on the Jack Paar show had lives and personalities of sorts, and told lots of anecdotes about themselves. Some of them had written books, which you could go to the library and read--Alexander King "Mine Enemy Grows Older." And Jack's world war two buddy with the Japanese wife who wrote the surrealist humor collections: "My Brother was an Only Child" and "Never Trust a Naked Bus Driver"--kind of like Lenny Bruce colliding with Mad magazine. I think his name was Jack Douglas. In format the Jack Paar show wasn't really all that different from David Letterman today--interviews, skits, Ernie-Kovacs-inspired stunts. Since I grew up in a very conservative household and did not get to go through any kind of "teenage rebellion" I was at home watching Jack Paar each night while some of my more adventurous (or doomed)peers were driving rattle-trap cars around burger joints and trying to get girls' bras off. Maybe that's why my memories of this show are so imprinted in my memory. For decades I thought of Johnny Carson as the "new guy" because the Jack Paar show was such a formative presence in my teenage life. That's another thing that distinguished the Jack Parr show--emotional involvement. In TV/Marshal-McLuhan terms Jack Paar was "hot"--sincere, emotional. While Johnny Carson was "cool"--detached, ironic. Paar, along with other early TV personalities like Arthur Godfrey, had the ability to make you feel like he was talking to you personally through your TV set. This was a mixture of informality and sincerity. Arthur Godfrey for example was such a successful TV character--he had two or three different shows on TV at once sometime--because he spoke into the microphone like someone coming into your living room and visiting you. Not like someone on a stage doing "public speaking" to an "audience."
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