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the otto files

where the classics never go out of style

Okay, I went to YouTube this morning because I was searching for some specific clip. Not surprisingly, I’ve already forgotten what it was. However, those of you who are frequent visitors to YouTube know that when you enter the site, it has a variety of clips set up and ready to go based on your viewing history. One of the videos on deck for me when I entered this morning was this 1982 Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson. I was drawn to watching the video because it advertised Dick Cavett as Johnny’s guest for this particular show. I have a certain fascination for Dick Cavett. There is a certain pomposity about Cavett which in most other people would turn me off but in Cavett somehow seems charming. I’m also know that Cavett once worked for Carson as a writer and because of that history, I wanted to check out this exchange between the two talk show giants.

Not having a surplus of time this morning, I jumped past the monologue straight to Cavett’s couch time with Johnny. Their exchange was indeed charming and I was happy I spent the ten minutes or so to enjoy that little bit of talk show history. I turned to grab something off the bookshelf and get to work when Johnny introduced his next guest, John Byner. When I was a kid, I LOVED John Byner! I had a particular affinity as a child for impressionists: Rich Little, Marilyn Michaels, George Kirby, Frank Gorshin, anybody who did show biz impersonations. However, John Byner was my absolute favorite because Byner was funny even as John Byner. Rich Little as Rich Little was about as dull as dull can be but John Byner was always “bizarrely” funny.

I spent ten more minutes watching Byner’s set with Johnny and was amply rewarded with a wonderfully funny start to my day. It was a joy to be reminded once again just how funny John Byner could be. It also confirmed for me yet again what sophisticated and advanced tastes I had as a kid for what was funny. Now for those of you who may not remember Byner, don’t get me wrong. His schtick was in no way intellectual humor, it was just silly and sarcastic, often self-deprecating, fun. But to me, as a kid, it always seemed like a very grown up silliness.

Anyway, I just thought I’d post the show here for your enjoyment. Again, I skipped past the monologue and watched essentially the meat of this Carson sandwich, his interviews with Cavett and Byner, therefore I can’t vouch for the monologue or the piece at the end with the plant lady. That said, it’s Johnny so I’m sure it’s all funny. Enjoy!

By the way, one of the clips in yesterday’s post about Ella and Carol Burnett is a Nora Desmond sketch from The Carol Burnett Show. Byner can be found in that sketch doing his famous impression of George Jessel, the Toastmaster general and the ubiquitous Hollywood eulogist.

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