Late-night soap opera

Mar 11, 2002  •  Post A Comment

The man has made millions of us laugh as host of a talk show we invite into our homes right before we go to bed, yet he’s been described off-air as “testy, defensive, preoccupied, withdrawn … and uncomfortable with people.” Go figure. But that’s how Johnny Carson was characterized in Look magazine 36 years ago. Of course, it’s almost the exact same words some use to describe his protege, David Letterman.
So it’s no surprise that the two Midwesterners are friends-at least as friendly as two guys who are testy, defensive, preoccupied, withdrawn and uncomfortable with people can get. And it’s no secret that Letterman has reached out in the past to his mentor for advice.
With Letterman again facing a major career decision, we imagine a call to Malibu is about to be made. Hold on, I believe the phone’s ringing at Johnny’s house right now:
Dave: “Hi Ed. It’s Dave. Johnny there?”
Ed: “Heeeeeeeeee-”
Johnny: “Damn, just give me the phone. Sorry Dave. What’s up?”
Dave: “Les, Mel and Michael Eisner.”
Johnny: “Name a schlamiel, a schlamazel and a chiropodist.”
Ed: “Hi-Yoooooooooooooooooo-”
Johnny: “Ed, get off the extension.”
Dave: “A chiropodist?”
Johnny: “It sounded funnier than crazed egomaniac.”
Dave: “Do you mean Moonves, Karmazin or Eisner?”
Johnny: “I was talking about you.”
Ed: “Hi-Yooooooooooooo-”
Johnny: “Ed, Pia needs her Alpo.”
Dave: “Pia?”
Johnny: “The dog. The dog.”
Dave: “I need some advice here.”
Johnny: “Who do you trust?”
Dave: “No one. Isn’t it `whom’?”
Johnny: “Neither do I. Listen, Dave, I’d love to help, but I gotta run. Springer’s about to start, and he’s got knocked-up trailer-park lesbians and their transvestite lovers.”
Dave: “This is what you watch?”
Johnny: “That and Howard Stern.”
Dave: “Can you just give me one word of advice?”
Johnny: “Hakunamatata.”
Ed: “Gesundheit.”
Chuck Ross is editor of Electronic Media.