Archive for the ‘"Tonight Show"’ Category

Carl Reiner Makes an Historic Appearance on "The Tonight Show Starring Conan O’Brien"

Friday, December 11th, 2009


Carl Reiner was Conan O’Brien’s guest on The Tonight Show yesterday and as he was introduced Conan noted that Reiner had been on all the major versions of The Tonight Show with previous hosts Steve Allen, Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, and Jay Leno.

Find a link to Carl Reiner’s appearance with Conan on the Archive’s Carl Reiner interview page, and watch Reiner’s interview where he discusses his legendary career in television which dates back to the late 1940s.

The Tonight Show’s Ed McMahon Has Died at age 86– Archive Interview Online

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Ed McMahon will forever be associated with The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and his trademark “Herrrrrre’s Johnny” introduction, but in a career that spanned nearly 60 years, he was also known for his annual work with Jerry Lewis’ MDA Telethon and as the host of Star Search and (with Dick Clark) TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes. Here are some excerpts from McMahon’s 2002 Archive interview in which he talks about The Tonight Show.

On his role as the sidekick of “The Tonight Show”:
That role, the way I was able to do it, in my mind, I loved it. And second bananas go back to Greek Drama, way back to the golden age of Greece, they had second bananas, the friend of the boss, throwing little jabs in, you know. Having a counterpoint, something different and that was my role and [Carson] let me do it and it was wonderful.

On not overstepping his bounds:
Oftentimes I see shows where the guy intrudes, but he shouldn’t have intruded. You know my attitude about being the second banana was to be in when needed and out of the way when not needed. And that’s an art form.

On the “art form” in action:
Johnny always had a cigarette lighter on his desk. And he’s doing a piece of material, [off] a sheet of paper, and he’s doing jokes, and he goes down the first page and [it's] very mild, it’s not clicking at all. The second page, about the second joke, it’s really not working. The audience is not buying it, and it’s not funny. Very bravely— I have to be brave, cause he may have the biggest joke in the world later on— I pick up the cigarette lighter, I light it… and here’s the boss doing a piece of comedy material that eight writers have written, and he may have a lot of stuff in here that he can’t wait to get to and its dying, but I take a chance, and he holds it [over] and lets it burn, just lets it burn. And the audience is going crazy, they’re dying. And he looks at me, and he reaches over, he picks up the wastepaper basket and very gingerly, now it’s really on fire, he lifts up the top of the wastepaper basket, and just as he does, Doc Severinson on the trumpet plays “Taps.” Now eight writers in a room for a week wouldn’t come up with that bit, that just happened, but that’s how you feel each other, how you know. The bit is dying, there’s no place to go, how do you solve it? Again me nailing the boss, you know…. so the audience loved that.

On how he and Carson kept their working relationship spontaneous:
I would meet Johnny before the show in his dressing room for about 7 minutes. We would never, ever talk about the show. We’d talk about anything else, you know, currently [now in 2002, it would be] will the Pope retire in Poland and will there be a replacement? And he’d have something funny to say about that. There’d be something funny, you know, maybe they’ll move the Vatican to Warsaw, it’ll look nice in Warsaw, you know. It rains a lot, but, you know it’d be a joke or something. That’s what we would do before the show. Never, ever, you do this, I’ll do that, I’m going to say this…

On Carson’s use of McMahon to see how the show was going:
Johnny would do his monologue and do the golf swing and we’d go to the commercial and then I would be standing at the mike you know, watching him, him watching me, you know he would also like play to me to see how it was going, you know I was his thermometer. You know, is this going good? You know, he’d look over at me.

On Johnny Carson’s acceptance of McMahon’s role:
We never discussed it. There was never any complements, there was never any criticism. He never said you’re doing a good job, he never said you’re doing something I don’t like. In 30 years, that never came up.

On his trademark introduction of Carson:
The first time I introduced him I came up with that gimmick of the “heeeeere’s” elongating the here’s, I thought of that that afternoon. That day October 1st 1962, I thought of it, and nobody told me to do it, I didn’t ask anybody’s permission, I just didn’t feel like saying “Here’s Johnny Carson”— didn’t seem like enough for me. It should be bigger than that, it should be more explosive, more expansive, more lights, more fireworks. So I came up with the idea of expanding “here’s,” and I knew I was right cause the next morning, when I got to work, when I came in, everybody I met was saying, “heeeeere’s Johnny,” because they knew we had scored, you know, it’d been a hit, and everybody on the staff, everybody in the hall, you know, the pages all the people that you’d run into walking through NBC in New York, were repeating it, I said I know I got something. So I kept doing it, no one told me to stop.

Click here for Ed McMahon’s full 8-part interview.

Andy Richter’s First Day on the "Tonight Show"

Monday, June 1st, 2009


Yes, tonight is Conan O’Brien’s Tonight Show debut, but lest we forget Andy Richter will be joining him as the show’s announcer/comedy-bit contributor. Although NBC has eschewed the word sidekick in their press announcement, Richter’s previous Late Night tenure was certainly reminiscent of Ed McMahon’s Tonight Show role of faithful sidekick. On his start with The Tonight Show, the Archive offers advice to Andy from our interview with Ed in 2002.

On his role as the sidekick of “The Tonight Show”:
That role, the way I was able to do it, in my mind, I loved it. And second bananas go back to Greek Drama, way back to the golden age of Greece, they had second bananas, the friend of the boss, throwing little jabs in, you know. Having a counterpoint, something different and that was my role and [Carson] let me do it and it was wonderful.

On not overstepping his bounds:
Oftentimes I see shows where the guy intrudes, but he shouldn’t have intruded. You know my attitude about being the second banana was to be in when needed and out of the way when not needed. And that’s an art form.

On the “art form” in action:
Johnny always had a cigarette lighter on his desk. And he’s doing a piece of material, [off] a sheet of paper, and he’s doing jokes, and he goes down the first page and [it's] very mild, it’s not clicking at all. The second page, about the second joke, it’s really not working. The audience is not buying it, and it’s not funny. Very bravely— I have to be brave, cause he may have the biggest joke in the world later on— I pick up the cigarette lighter, I light it… and here’s the boss doing a piece of comedy material that eight writers have written, and he may have a lot of stuff in here that he can’t wait to get to and its dying, but I take a chance, and he holds it [over] and lets it burn, just lets it burn. And the audience is going crazy, they’re dying. And he looks at me, and he reaches over, he picks up the wastepaper basket and very gingerly, now it’s really on fire, he lifts up the top of the wastepaper basket, and just as he does, Doc Severinson on the trumpet plays “Taps.” Now eight writers in a room for a week wouldn’t come up with that bit, that just happened, but that’s how you feel each other, how you know. The bit is dying, there’s no place to go, how do you solve it? Again me nailing the boss, you know…. so the audience loved that.

On how he and Carson kept their working relationship spontaneous:
I would meet Johnny before the show in his dressing room for about 7 minutes. We would never, ever talk about the show. We’d talk about anything else, you know, currently [now in 2002, it would be] will the Pope retire in Poland and will there be a replacement? And he’d have something funny to say about that. There’d be something funny, you know, maybe they’ll move the Vatican to Warsaw, it’ll look nice in Warsaw, you know. It rains a lot, but, you know it’d be a joke or something. That’s what we would do before the show. Never, ever, you do this, I’ll do that, I’m going to say this…

On Carson’s use of McMahon to see how the show was going:
Johnny would do his monologue and do the golf swing and we’d go to the commercial and then I would be standing at the mike you know, watching him, him watching me, you know he would also like play to me to see how it was going, you know I was his thermometer. You know, is this going good? You know, he’d look over at me.

On Johnny Carson’s acceptance of McMahon’s role:
We never discussed it. There was never any complements, there was never any criticism. He never said you’re doing a good job, he never said you’re doing something I don’t like. In 30 years, that never came up.

On his trademark introduction of Carson:
The first time I introduced him I came up with that gimmick of the “heeeeere’s” elongating the here’s, I thought of that that afternoon. That day October 1st 1962, I thought of it, and nobody told me to do it, I didn’t ask anybody’s permission, I just didn’t feel like saying “Here’s Johnny Carson”— didn’t seem like enough for me. It should be bigger than that, it should be more explosive, more expansive, more lights, more fireworks. So I came up with the idea of expanding “here’s,” and I knew I was right cause the next morning, when I got to work, when I came in, everybody I met was saying, “heeeeere’s Johnny,” because they knew we had scored, you know, it’d been a hit, and everybody on the staff, everybody in the hall, you know, the pages all the people that you’d run into walking through NBC in New York, were repeating it, I said I know I got something. So I kept doing it, no one told me to stop.

Here’s a link to Ed McMahon’s entire 8-part Archive interview.

"Love Boat" on DVD, Charles Fox Interview Online

Friday, March 14th, 2008


The Love Boat has finally made it to DVD and just hearing the theme song brings back memories of Saturday nights and the Love Boat/Fantasy Island pairing.

The Archive has interviewed several of the creative team behind the series, including composer Charles Fox, who was responsible for many of TV’s most memorable theme songs.



Click here to watch the entire 7-part interview with Charles Fox.

Interview description:

Fox talked about his musical education, which included studying with Nadia Boulanger in Paris from 1959-61. He spoke about breaking into composing for television, writing transition material for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson as well as the bold and energetic theme song for ABC’s Wide World of Sports. He spoke in great detail about Love American Style, a series for which he wrote the theme song and scored music for the entire series run. He described other series for which he both scored the theme song and created libraries for track music. He described his work on Laverne & Shirley, including details about the pilot presentation and the creation of the theme song and main title. Additionally he talked about his work on the series: Happy Days, Wonder Woman, The Love Boat, and The Paper Chase. He also discussed his work in television movies (including Victory at Entebbe) and feature films (including The Other Side of the Mountain and Foul Play), as well as composing other popular songs. B-roll consisted of Fox performing a medley of his television theme songs as well as “Killing Me Softly With His Song.” The interview was conducted by Karen Herman on June 29, 2004.

Director/Producer Dwight Hemion has Died — Archive Interview Online

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

We’ve just learned that legendary director/producer Dwight Hemion passed away on Monday, January 28th. In his prolific career, he garnered 47 Emmy nominations in his career and won 18. He is best-known for producing specials with such legends as Julie Andrews, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Frank Sinatra, and Barbra Streisand.

Click here to access Dwight Hemion’s 5-part oral history interview.

Interview description:
In his 5-part oral history interview conducted in July of 2001, director Dwight Hemion talks about his early television career at ABC in the late 1940’s. He discusses in detail the beginnings of the ABC network and his early directing work on the television series Rootie Kazootie and The Tonight Show with Steve Allen. Hemion later discusses his collaboration with Gary Smith on Perry Como’s Kraft Music Hall and their subsequent company collaborations in producing and directing television musical variety specials including Baryshnikov on Broadway. Hemion finishes the interview discussing the stars of his many specials, particularly Barbra Streisand. The Archive also recorded a joint session with Hemion and Gary Smith, where they discussed their longtime working collaboration.

Archive Celebrates Fran Allison’s Centennial

Monday, November 19th, 2007

The Archive celebrates the centennial of Fran Allison (1907-89), born on November 20. Fran Allison was the host of the classic television series Kukla, Fran, and Ollie (in photo with puppeteer Burr Tillstrom). The series is called by the Museum of Broadcast Communications Encyclopedia of Television as, “the first children’s show to be equally popular with children and adults.” The series was done live and the dialogue was unscripted. The series began locally in Chicago in 1947 and went on NBC’s midwest network in 1948 opening to the east coast in 1949 and the West Coast in 1951. As described in the Encyclopedia of Television, “Allison acted as ’straight man’ to [the puppets], but her role was much more. A quick wit in her own right who could maintain the pace set by Tillstrom, Allison served simultaneously, according to Tillstrom, as ‘big sister, favorite teacher, baby-sitter, girlfriend, and mother.’”


The Archive of American Television interviewed director Lewis Gomavitz, who spoke about about Kukla, Fran & Ollie in parts 2-5 of his interview.

Click here to access the entire nine-part interview with Lewis Gomavitz.


The Archive of American Television interviewed NBC stage manager Lynwood King, who spoke about Fran Allison (“Fran had a very quick wit, very fast thinking”) and Kukla, Fran, and Ollie ten minutes into Part 2 of his interview.

Click here to access Lynwood King’s entire six-part interview.

Lewis Gomavitz Interview Description:

Lewis Gomavitz described his involvement in the Chicago experimental station, W6XBK during World War II. After the war, he was hired on to the station, renamed WBKB, and served as a stage manager until he was tapped to direct a new show starring Burr Tillstrom’s puppets and Fran Allison. The show, originally called Junior Jamboree, evolved into the classic, Kukla, Fran and Ollie. Gomavitz directed the show for ten years, until it went off the air. After that, he moved to Los Angeles where he directed and associate-produced various specials. In the 1970s, he worked as the prop master on Sanford and Son until the show went off the air. Mr. Gomavitz retired in the late 1980s. The interview was conducted by Karen Herman on February 2, 2000.

Lynwood King Interview Description:

Lynwood King talked about breaking into television in 1949 at Chicago’s WNBQ. He described the famous “Chicago School” of broadcasting pioneered by such legends as Dave Garroway and Studs Terkel. King talked about his work as a stage manager on such network series (originating from Chicago) as Studs’ Place; Garroway at Large; Zoo Parade; and Kukla, Fran, and Ollie. He recalled working as a director on such series as Hawkins Falls and, in New York, Tonight! America After Dark: the late night series that ran in between the Steve Allen and Jack Paar Tonight shows. King also talked about his work in public broadcasting and on such documentary series as Project 20. King spoke in great detail about his work as a director on the Today show, which reunited him with Dave Garroway. King also discussed his later freelance work on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and on soap operas, including Ryan’s Hope and One Life to Live. The interview was conducted by Jeff Kisseloff on November 20, 2002.

What are your memories of Kukla, Fran, and Ollie?

Garry Marshall’s Archive of American Television Interview Is Now Online

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

’70s/’80s hit-maker Garry Marshall’s 6-part Archive interview is now available online. Click here to access the entire interview.

Excerpt: Marshall on the initial concept of “Fonzie” on Happy Days from Part 4

“We created this character Fonzie who was originally called Arthur Masharelli, but M*A*S*H was the name of a show so the nickname Mash wouldn’t work so Bob Brunner, who was one of the writers came up with the name, Fonzarelli. We needed something we could have short[ened]. And that was “Fonzarelli” and we put him in and I had done, see a lot of times people don’t understand, you try something here it doesn’t work; you try it again over here. I played a character in Blansky’s Beauties. I acted. I played a guy who worked in the casino in Vegas, never spoke. Just wore dark glasses and walked around scaring everybody. So I said let’s do that again. We get a guy who don’t talk. It’s always scary when a guy doesn’t talk. So Arthur Fonzarelli was really written just to point, to do gestures and say very little. And I always remember, one of my favorite actors was Gary Cooper, who said mostly “yup” and became a gigantic star, which amazed me. So I said, he’ll say little.”

Interview description:
Marshall’s lively interview consists of many entertaining anecdotes about his over forty years in the television business. He describes his early years as a journalist and his eventual entry into comedy writing for The Tonight Show with Jack Paar. He talks about his work honing his craft as a writer on such ‘60s sitcoms as The Joey Bishop Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Love American Style (which served as a pilot for Happy Days) and The Lucy Show. He speaks in detail about developing The Odd Couple for television with his partner Jerry Belson. He then discusses helming some of the most popular sitcoms of the 1970s, including Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, and Mork & Mindy. For these shows he details the casting, development, and production as well as discussed the impact these series had on ABC. Finally, he briefly talks about his entry into feature filmmaking. The interview was conducted by Karen Herman on August 28, 2000.