Goodbye Johnny Carson

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 3, 2005

On Sunday, I was talking to one of my twentysomething pals and I mentioned Johnny Carson.

Much to my chagrin, he pointed out that he really didn't remember Carson because he was like 10 years old maybe when he left the air.

I suddenly felt old and I suddenly felt very sad for the generation of people who came after Carson had taken his final bow in 1992.

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I don't think they understand the connection so many people feel today knowing that the man who put so many to bed for so many years is no longer with us.

Now, we have hundreds of channels to choose from and NBC, CBS and ABC are not the end-all-be-all of television.

I can remember so vividly watching Carson with my mom as a wee lad while my dad worked in Bessemer away from the family.

Somewhere dad was watching it too.

That was the common thing.

You could watch Carson and have a great joke or two the next day in homeroom.

I can't watch the Tonight Show now because I don't like Jay Leno. I don't like the fact that he makes fun of people through his "Jaywalking" segment or that he sends some high pitched voiced intern out so that people can be put on the spot or that someone can make fun of him.

David Letterman, in my opinion is the closest we have to Carson left today.

A reason why may have been revealed last week when it was leaked that Johnny was sending Letterman some jokes for his monologues.

Some of the things we have witnessed as a nation in the years since he left the air have often left me wondering what Carson might have said about it.

What type of joke would he have cracked or would it have been so controversial that he would bomb on it.

What would he have made of Monica Lewinsky, 9/11 or simply the case of the woman who got pregnant by her student.

The world of 2005 is not the same as the world of 1992 when Carson left the air.

Much has improved about technology that gives us that incomprehensible amount of television and the various mediums such as video games.

We've lost a lot in that same time period as well.

We don't watch the news anymore and see anything remotely funny.

We are bombarded by death and destruction.

We don't hear the same jokes anymore.

Now they have to be more bawdy and improper.

There is no gentleness to the world of the 21st Century.

Until Johnny left us in 1992, we as a nation could go to sleep with a smile on our faces after a long day.

It was okay for us

all to share a laugh thanks to Johnny Carson.

Now, since 911, we've learned as a nation how to go to bed worrying about the next terrorist attack or if our families are safe and we've learned to mourn our losses.

That's what Johnny Carson gave us.

He taught us to mourn the losses for they are many, but celebrate the wins for they are few.

It would be good to see him in front of that curtain one more time.

Jay Thomas is managing editor of the Greenville Advocate and can be reached at 383-9302, ext. 136 or via email at