OK, OK, the retirement of Johnny Carson from "The Tonight Show" has gotten more ink this week than "Murphy Brown's" baby. But the genial host cannot get away without a Media
TTC Monitor trivia quiz.
Getting ready for tonight's final show (11:35 p.m., Channel 2):
1. When did the very first network edition of "Tonight" (pre-Carson) go on the air, and what late-night program had already been the first network show aiming at a wee hours audience?
2. What was the censored punch line to a joke that caused Carson predecessor Jack Paar to walk off the show one night in 1960?
3. What was Carson's stage name when he was a teen magician?
4. What did Carson reply when the seat behind the desk was first offered to him?
5. Who were Carson's first guests?
6. Who was the bandleader between Skitch Henderson and Doc Severinsen? (Bonus points: What is Doc's real first name?)
While you are pondering, note that the series "Short Attention Span Theater" on the Comedy Central cable network (currently seen in this area only on United Artist cable systems in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County) is showing its own Carson trivia test today, at 1 p.m., 7 p.m. and 1 a.m.
And now, heeer's the answers (according to Alex McNeil's "Total Television" compendium):
1. "Tonight!" first aired for NBC affiliates on Sept. 27, 1954 (but only from the East Coast west to Omaha), with Steve Allen as the host. From May, 1950 to August, 1951, a show called "Broadway Open House" had aired on NBC in the late hours, and "Tonight!" creator Sylvester "Pat" Weaver used the 15-month run to refine some ideas later adapted for "Tonight!"
2. Paar wanted to tell a story about an Englishwoman preparing for a visit to America. She wanted to know if her room included a "w.c.," short for water closet, and the gag involved confusion over the abbreviation. Her host thought she meant "wayside chapel," and wrote back that it was a big one, but got very crowded the two days a week it was open. The network primly refused to air the joke, and Paar opened the show, protested the action and walked offstage, leaving sidekick Hugh Downs to carry on. (Many years later, Paar did tell the water closet story on NBC, on "Late Night With David Letterman.")
3. "The Great Carson" did magic tricks while growing up in Norfolk, Neb.
4. Carson originally said "no" to the "Tonight" spot. He had substituted for Paar on occasion and feared the job would be too taxing of his comedy material.
5. The first guests of Carson's edition of "Tonight," on Oct. 1, 1962, were Rudy Vallee, Joan Crawford, Mel Brooks and Tony Bennett.
6. In late 1966, following Henderson's departure from the band, Milton DeLugg briefly took the baton until Carl "Doc" Severinsen took over in early 1967.