DVD ReviewThe Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson — Show Date 4/9/74
“It was so warm today, I saw a blue jay fanning himself with his worm!” said Carson in reply to the question from the audience. Carson fans should have no problem divining the question, a la Carnac the Magnificent. On April 9, 1974 sidekick Ed McMahon was on vacation (Carson joked that Ed was getting his liver checked out) so Doc Severinsen was doing the announcing duties with Tommy Newsom leading the band.
Johnny’s monologue mentioned several current events which help us with the setting. The “California Jam” had taken place the weekend before, streaking was all the rage, and it was OK to tell jokes about “fat airline stewardesses.” The politically correct language police hadn’t become influential in 1974. John Wayne and Evil Knievel were still alive and making news as was Johnny’s first guests, The Jackson Five.
The Jackson Five actually numbered six with the inclusion of younger brother Randy and of course, Michael, when he was still black. The guys sported matching outfits and oversized Afros. They opened their first song, “Never Can Say Goodbye” with a few bars of “Let It Be” done a cappella. In their second number, “Dancing Machine”, Michael displayed some of the moves (including hints of the moonwalk) for which he would later become famous.
Jerry Van Dyke was the only other guest in this 33 min episode (edited for video) that included no commercials nor credits but plenty of evidence as to why Van Dyke never made it in standup comedy.
Individual episodes (56 in the first wave) of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson became available on November 20, 2010 on DVD and via Createspace.com, a subsidiary of Amazon.com. The material is provided by Respond2entertainment.com, a company that specializes in marketing original filmed productions. In addition to the Carson videos, they also have Sonny & Cher, Bob Hope and many others. Check their site or Amazon.com for your favorite episode.