“Dancing with the Stars” host channels Johnny Carson

Nebraskan Johnny Carson was host of NBC's "The Tonight Show" from 1962 through 1992.

Nebraska son, University of Nebraska-Lincoln broadcast graduate and comedic great Johnny Carson lives on- Most recently in a Tom Bergeron  interview.

As host of Dancing with the Stars and America’s Funniest Videos, the Emmy-winning Bergeron is seen by millions of Americans each week.

Ron Bergeron: "Carson always had complete control on his show and could be supportive and withering."

Interviewer Louis Virtel compared Bergeron’s comedic television hosting style to Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak.

Virtel: Would agree that your hosting style is Sajak-ian?

Bergeron: Sajakian. What would that mean?

Virtel: Well, Pat Sajak keeps a very constant flow, but there’s an underlying current of very subversive humor occurring at all times.”

Bergeron: No disrespect to Pat, but my video mentor was always [Johnny] Carson. Carson always had complete control on his show and could be supportive and withering.

Bergeron is the latest to pay tribute to Carson.  Late night hosts David Letterman, Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, Craig Ferguson and Jimmy Fallon have also mentioned Carson’s influence on their careers.

Here’s Johnny!

Johnny Carson began hosting "The Tonight Show" in October of 1962 and retired in 1992.

Carson was born in Corning, Iowa, on Oct. 23, 1925 and grew up in Norfolk, Neb.  He died on Jan. 23, 2005.

Carson rose to national fame as host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show.”

He began hosting the show in October of 1962 and retired 30 years later. When Carson called it quits in 1992 he had hosted 4,531 “Tonight Show” programs.

Click here for a wonderful Mike Wallace interview with Johnny Carson.

Joel Sternberg wrote one of my favorite Carson descriptions:

“Combining his verbal dexterity with a well stocked supply of facial expressions and gestures, he (Carson) became the acknowledged master at lampooning the pretentious, salvaging the boring or sharpening a nervous guest’s performance for maximum effect.

Carson’s early comedic genius

Johnny Carson's senior thesis at UNL was a 45-minute monologue titled "How to Write Comedy for Radio."

If you doubt the genius of Johnny Carson, listen to the senior thesis he produced as a broadcast major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1949.   I say “produced” because the then 23-year-old Carson recorded his thesis  on a reel-to-reel tape recorder.

Click here to listen to a brief sample of Carson’s senior thesis. Click here to download Carson’s entire 1949 senior thesis.

The thesis is a 45-minute monologue titled “How to Write Comedy for Radio.”  I believe it should be required listening for anyone interested in the science of  comedy.

The 45-minute recording is a scholarly examination of the techniques and devices radio comedy writers used to construct the jokes and gags in comedy radio shows.

Carson’s legacy lives on as part of a $5 million gift from the Carson estate that provides critical to support for our broadcasting programs.

To support his University of Nebraska-Lincoln thesis, Carson drew from routines used by Bob Hope and Jack Benny.

Most amazing to me was the critical thought process Carson used to identify and analyze the different techniques used to write comedy.

Many of those technique were used in Carson’s television career, particularly in his “Tonight Show” monologues, a staple for late night TV audiences in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s.

Carson’s legacy

In our college, the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Carson’s legacy lives on as part of a $5 million gift from the Carson estate that provides critical to support for our broadcasting programs.

Income from the endowment also provides support to UNL’s Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film.

About Bernard McCoy

My views are my own and not a reflection of my employer. I'm a professor of Journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I've also been a working journalist for the past 29 years. I have covered news stories in war zones, reported on human and natural disasters, presidential conventions, a presidential inauguration and the September 11th, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. My career experiences include work as an award-winning documentary producer, television news reporter, photographer, producer, and anchor. I worked at WIBW-TV, Topeka, KS., KCTV, Kansas City, MO, WKBD-TV, Detroit, MI., WILX-TV, Lansing, MI. and WBNS-TV, Columbus, OH. I have also worked as a contributing reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, Associated Press, CBS, CNN, the Ohio News Network and lecture at the Kosovo Institute of Journalism and Communications. I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and a master’s degree in telecommunications management from Michigan State University.
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