Talk Show-Offs

Today is the birthday (in 1925) of Johnny Carson, the undisputed king of American talk show hosts.

Carson is famous for being a very private man who succeeded beyond all expectations in a very public job.

The talk show is a curious institution.  No one could have imagined a need for it in the years leading up to its invention.

Before radio and TV came along people had to provide entertaining late-night talk for themselves.   All that was needed was a bonfire and at least one person with enough self-regard that they couldn’t stay quiet.

Now the many available cable channels and every aspect of the internet work furiously to maintain a steady stream of chatter for everyone (or no one)  to see, hear and read.

What no one produces is a little bit of relief.

I wonder how long it will be before some beleaguered content producer, charged with the monumental task of developing a  multi-platform presentation with the capacity to surprise an exhausted  audience, will at long last hire a cast of bright, attractive people to sit quietly in each other’s company, saying nothing?

In radio, that would have to be the last format frontier – an antidote to our noisy world – continuous broadcast of high quality silence 24/7, in stereo.  With a station like WSPR on the dial, you would have to wonder if those people you see walking around with their headphones clamped tightly over their ears are actually grooving on pure quiet – turned all the way up, of course.
Who is your favorite talk show host?  


42 thoughts on “Talk Show-Offs”

  1. Still another reason for you to return to radio. What you and you’re sidekick had to say and/or perform was always so much fun, funny and calming.

    Come back, Dale. Come back!

    Emory Josephs
    Tarzana, CA


  2. I don’t know if it counts, since technically it’s a news show…I would have to say Scott Simon on Morning Edition (at least of shows currently on the air – otherwise I would harken back to LGMS hands down). I especially appreciate how he slides in his own commentary, ideas and bits of narrative. His interviews with authors, musicians and other folks always manage to intrigue me or get me thinking, which is amazing given the short format he is working with. Plus he has a good radio voice.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have given up on talk shows. I used to love Johnny Carson. Speaking of talking, I had a lovely talk last night and this morning with Hans, who I declare a capital fellow, a wonderful photographer, and a considerate house guest. He is on his way to points north this morning. I am off to Fargo this afternoon for an ethics workshop.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Morning-
    We enjoyed David Letterman for a while… not so much anymore. (I assume it’s me– not you, David).
    We do like Craig Ferguson… but in small doses.
    Jimmy Fallon– he is just having such a good time doing his show. You can tell how much he’s enjoying himself so that’s cool.

    I wouldn’t have thought of TLGMS as a ‘talk show’ but if it was, then by all means YES.
    And yes to Scott Simon. And who was the lady on Sunday mornings that left a few years ago??
    Teri Gross, Ira Glass.

    Without cable we’re missing some of the newer, cutting edge people.
    Course I’m missing Howard Stern and Rush too so it’s OK.


    1. I don’t really watch talk shows – or much TV in general – but on the occasion when I have caught Jimmy Fallon he sure does seems like he’s enjoying the heck out of what he’s doing. Very refreshing.


  5. No one. Don’t watch ’em. The only one who seems remotely decent is Charlie Rose, but I suppose he doesn’t qualify as a “talk show host” the way Dale intended us to understand–the network late night celebrity butt kissers.

    Chris in Owatonna


    1. I consider Charlie Rose a sort of talk show. Love the format of multiple peopl around a table, when he does that. If he could only keep his questions under 50 words and stop interrupting. The butt-kisser par excellence is the other talk show host person on Tpt2, forget his name.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m glad you mentioned the interrupting, Clyde. There must be something odd in my family background that makes me flinch when someone (like Rose) interrupts so often. It seems so discourteous to ask someone a question and then talk over his or her response.


        1. I once watched what should have been a good show, with Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. Halfway into the hour Maggie /smith just gave up in frustration. Judi Dench looked at her and decided to answer all the questions after that . After awhile I think Judi Dench thought it was all funny. Rose never seems to notice.


  6. Carson burned me out on talk shows. It became the same formula of situations and jokes too often repeated. He used to say he learned to do the show by watching Jack Benny who was about the only famous second banana. Until he got tired in later years, they say, I wasn’t watching then, until he got tired he set people up to be the star, the center, the first banana the way Jack Benny did with Mel Blanc, Eddie Anderson, etc. All the other TV hosts are first bananas. Terri Gross, Scott Simon are a different kind of hosts but true second bananas in their game, or were. What was that show out of Canada 25 years ago? That was the best. Carson once made a comment about Captain Kangaroo was also a very good second banana. That was in an odd way a talk show.


  7. Good morning. I am not a big fan of talk shows. One that I do enjoy, at times, is John Steward on the Dailey Show. On day time TV, I some times catch Queen Latifah, who I think is good in some ways.


  8. I keep suggesting to you Dale, you ‘n me…

    Anyway, my current fave is Craig Ferguson. I love that he just doesn’t seem to put on airs and comes across as just having a chat with people. I also really enjoy that he (at least) acts like he just doesn’t care whether he keeps his job or not and, because of that, is just going to be himself. And, yeah, he curses and he tends toward sexual humor, which can turn some people off. But I love that he bucks the corporate trend and all of its political correctness.

    I enjoyed Carson because he had such an easy way about him. It’s no surprise that he was so private. The easiest way to retain your privacy is to ask others about themselves.

    Dick Cavett would have to be my other favorite. Intelligent, dry wit, and came across as very prepared but open to surprises.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m with you on Dick Cavett, TGITH. He was too brainy for the environment he was in, and he couldn’t get that job today, but I think it was Cavett who really got me interested in the possibilities of media.


  9. How do we define “talk show host?” If TLGMS counts, that’s my favorite. I loved it when Garrison did it with Tom Keith, and then when Dale and Tom did the show it was even better. What lovely memories.

    I now enjoy Scott Simon more than anyone else on radio. He did an interview many years ago (2002) with Bonnie Raitt. I used to keep a url so I could listen to that show from time to time. It made me weep each time.

    On television my clear favorite is Bill Moyers. He is the hero of the woman I write a letter to each day. I can enjoy Craig Ferguson in small doses. He’s scary.


  10. l don’t know if The Daily Show and Colbert Report are considered “talk shows”, but they are by far the most informative and educated shows on TV. They always deliver current events satirically and with such humor that the right wingers are too stupid to understand. They don’t even realize that their party’s being slammed half of the time! l was sorry to learn that Colbert will replace Letterman as l assume he won’t have free reign to reveal the GOP hypocrisy in that venue.


  11. carson was the best, i loved staying up for him when i was small and even more when i was not. i cried and cried when he did his last show, he did such a good job of offering thoughtful questions it was fun even or maybe especially on nights when the guests were a nobody. remember the lady with a potato chip collection?
    letterman was too cool wen he was young, he has mellowed nicely,
    remember all the awful guys in the 60’s merv griffen mike douglas, joey bishop, the ok ones dick cavett, david frost david steineberg, the odd ones joe pyne tom snyder,
    charlie rose used to amaze me with his knowledge of 3 new guests every night on his show form 1-4 am back when he was getting started i think it was on cbs. he is amazing. he looks tired these days i was always amazed he didnt look tired 20 years ago but it does catch up with us.
    my favorite interviewer in the talk show format today is bob edwards former npr guy who now does the bob edwards show on xm/pay radio, he is thoughtful, knowledgable and has a list of guest that interest me. i like the terri gross folks, this american life sort of collection based interviews,
    i love listening to people talk about ideas and someties an interviewer leads to a better discussion than just to let someone babble on but ted talks does a pretty good job of the talk show without all the schmaltz. get to it and be done with it. get inspired and get on with your day. slam bam thank you maam kind of journalism, my kind of show… heres johnny was perfect for me at the time and perfect for the times. when
    johnny made the jokes about zha zhas pussy and arnold palmers wife kissing his balls i thought the world was going to die of laughter at the impropriety of the comments. how far we have come huh? i feel like my dad when i recall how much the price on something has increased. gas was 19.9
    the nut goodie was 10 cents and all the other candy bars were a nickle. pop was a dime.
    and i feel that way when i watch tv today. the walking dead my duaghter was watching the other day with axe blades coming through the becks of the heads along with lots of blood, the sex and violence, and then there is the programming for adults… its a differnt place. its time for me to become a grandpa and turn into a charachter who rants and bemoans the way it is vs the way it used to be. … hey wait a minute.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Carson was at his best with the non-celebrities. He sat far forward in his chair and looked those folks right in the eye. The woman sheriff from Ohio was great. He once had a 100-year-old woman on, don’t remember how he found her, who was charming. She had been married for like 75 years or something. He asked her if she had ever thought about divorce in all those years (Carson had just been divorced.) She said divorce, never, murder often. Then she chided Carson for getting divorced. He loved it.


    2. Some observers feel we are in a golden age of outstanding TV, tim. Of course there is a tremendous amount of crap, but some of the shows–especially the better miniseries–are not only better than most TV but better than most films being made. I’ve really enjoyed Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Justified, In Treatment, House of Cards and Downton Abbey.


      1. l’d absolutely love to be able to watch these quality series, but can’t afford the premium channels at this point. l’m getting sick, sick, sick of the reality shows as they’re becoming more and more bizarre. Spin offs from spin offs, pushing out decent programming. UGH


  12. OT: so we have spent the week babysitting grandkids, 9 and 11, who are very easy to babysit. The parsonage was scheduled to get some new carpeting and some new rolled flooring. They store was told to wait until next week. But they did it last Friday. The church janitor let them in while my daughter was gone. The odors from this is high on my list of triggers. My throat almost closed last night.
    Last week the tree people were supposed to come do a major trimming on the black walnuts around the house. They came at 7 this morning. It is a beautiful day out, but the dust they are raising trimming and chopping is a nice little sauce for the fumes. We have all the windows open to try to ventilate the fumes inside, but that lets in the dust outside.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. OT: the folk music scene has many talented performers and a few superstars. I think Sarah Jarosz is one of the most incredibly gifted young performers. She’s coming to the Fitzgerald November 1. A little far for me to drive, alas.


  14. I like in small doses: Craig Ferguson, John Stewart and Steven Colbert. Liked Cavett and Moyers. Might have to check out Jimmy Fallon, and get up earlier so I can hear Scott Simon. Can’t stand Letterman, not sure what it is – I am looking forward to seeing what Colbert will do in his place.

    I loved Johnny Carson partly because he’s the first one I’m aware of that didn’t mind looking silly in those made-up skits, Carnac, etc. It was also fun to see him totally crack up at something unexpected.


    1. My reaction to Carson was unlike yours – and apparently the rest of the US’s – but I couldn’t stand what I perceived as a smug, false front. On the other hand Letterman strikes me as a smart-ass guy from “Joise.” Don’t think I’d care for either one of them in person, but for entertainment, Letterman would have been my preference.


    2. I read an article about Johnny Carson in the 80’s which portrayed him as a pretty down-to-earth guy who inspired a lot of loyalty in his coworkers and underlings. Ed McMahon, in particular, got very choked up and teary about how wonderfully generous Carson had been to him. Somehow, though, Carson’s interpersonal skills didn’t seem to extend to his personal life. He couldn’t keep a marriage going long-term. You kinda have to wonder.


  15. A shout out to Renee. Thanks for so generously hosting Hans last night. His solo journey is made possible entirely by the hospitality of individuals. He’s getting a lot of wonderful photos although his visit to Williston today was a bust.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Hey all – just catching up from another time zone.

    I am just not a fan of talk shows. Especially these days when the guests appear to be 100% entertainers. Just because someone can act well or sing well doesn’t mean they are any more interesting than the rest of us. For the record, I don’t consider the LGMS as a talk show – way too entertaining for that moniker!

    Liked by 2 people

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