Sunday, January 23, 2005

Johnny

When young celebrities die, I feel sad even when I don't feel at all connected to them. For example, I didn't have any interest, positively or negatively, in John Ritter, but was still really weirded out by his death. I remember doing a search on his name just a couple of hours after he'd passed away and finding this fan page dedicated to him. The author already had a MIDI of "Imagine" playing, which felt so incongruously sweet to me.

When older celebrities die, I only respond with sadness when I felt connected to them in some way. Johnny Carson's death actually made me say "Oh...sad." I associate him with staying up late starting in 5th grade. His monologues were sometimes just awful, but he could always save them with that little eyebrow raise that said "Gee, that bombed, and I'm still out here with ten more jokes to go...and you're stuck here too..." Current comics, even ones I love, don't do that kind of genial subtlety. That's why I'm sad.

I'm going to try to tape both Leno and Letterman Monday night (which will require a very difficult simultaneous VCR and TiVo taping). This is not so much out of respect for Johnny, but to test a hypothesis I have about late night TV: when faced with any identical tragedy (and given that they've both lost the guy who launched their careers, they don't get more identical than this), David Letterman will handle it with far more grace and beauty than Leno. I could be wrong, but I don't think I will be.

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