“The cape is a start, but we need turtlenecks. On cold awards-show nights, I call on actors of the female persuasion to go with more capes and pockets–but really more jackets and turtlenecks.” Me, slightly paraphrasing me on the latest Joal Ryan Thing podcast.
As an added bonus, I commemorate Tuesday’s 50th anniversary of the premiere of the 1966-1968 Adam West–Burt Ward TV series, Batman, with a discussion with comic-book writer Jim Beard, editor of the anthology, Gotham City 14 Miles: 14 Essays on Why the 1960s Batman TV Series Matters.
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In the course of writing a couple of Joan Rivers
things for Yahoo!—here’s one thing
, and here’s another
— I wondered: If Joan Rivers vs. Johnny Carson
was a war, did Joan Rivers, who without a doubt lost the late-night TV battle in the 1980s, win?
It’s not an easy question. It may even be an impossible question. It raises too many other questions, chiefly what’s winning? Is winning Carson dying without deigning to talk to Rivers after she left NBC to launch a rival show for Fox? Is winning Carson going down in obit history as the “king of late night?” Is winning Carson walking away from the spotlight and staying away? Is winning Rivers outliving Carson? Is winning Rivers outworking Carson? Is winning Rivers going out more pop-culturally relevant than Carson was when he passed?
In the end, what’s the difference? In the end, they both died. (And if the unsinkable Rivers can’t out make it out of here alive, then, sorry, folks, it’s official: We are all doomed.) In the end, there’s more sadness, I think, to Carson’s story than to Rivers’ even though Rivers’ certainly was not a laff-riot itself. But maybe just as an audience’s applause seemed to fill Rivers’ tank, maybe alone time fueled Carson’s. Maybe they both went out doing what they needed and wanted to do. Maybe they both won.
(But just between you and me, it feels, in this moment at least, that Rivers didn’t lose.)
P.S.: The above clip is a radio interview Rivers conducted this past winter with Carson’s former attorney and confidante, Henry Bushkin. It is a remarkable document of the Carson-Rivers years as told by two of the ultimate insiders. It’s also a remarkable testament to what a great interviewer Rivers was.
UPDATE (8-12-14): Looking at the young Robin Williams‘ early (earliest?) televised standup, and finding Robin Williams’ fully formed comic persona. He was Mearth. As a performer, he was born a grown man. (For Yahoo!)
It’s Christmas 1978. I’m 11 years old. I’m in the May Company at Eagle Rock Plaza. I’m lobbying my mother to buy me Mork from Ork-style rainbow suspenders for Christmas.
The obituary I wrote for E! in 2009; the look back at the near-misses in Jackson’s film career I wrote today for Yahoo! Movies. #fiveyearslater
When The Brady Bunch
premiered in the fall of 1969, viewers knew Robert Reed
as a dramatic actor (The Defenders
) and Florence Henderson
as a stage and variety-TV performer. That left Ann B. Davis
as the ringer, as the sign to audiences that, yes, The Brady Bunch
was a comedy, and that, yes, zingers would be delivered, and not only would they be delivered, but they’d be delivered by a pro, a two-time Emmy-winning vet, in fact, best known at the time for a series that’s hardly known at all today, The Bob Cummings Show
Davis died Sunday. She was 88. She was the center square because she was the comedy in the situation.