Paul Reiser on Johnny Carson: There was only one

Paul Reiser is the creative force behind “There’s … Johnny!” on Hulu

Q: How did it feel to get called over to the couch as a young comic making his first appearance on “The Tonight Show”?

A: It’s a very surreal moment because as exciting and as pivotal as it is and it certainly was, it felt oddly familiar because we have all spent so much time imagining that from the first time you pick up a microphone or probably earlier. You know, when you’re a kid and if you’re born to do this, you watched Johnny Carson and you imagined yourself walking through there. So it’s like doing your rock and roll moves in the mirror. You know, you’ve been practicing this moment for years so when it came, it was like, ‘Oh, here it is. ‘ …

Q: How was your relationship with Johnny?

A: He was great to me. Like I never socialized outside of the show, but he had me on really frequently. There was a spell like ’87 to ’89, I was on there a whole bunch of times, like every couple of months, and that was only per his invitation. He somehow took a shine to me, and he was awfully supportive, not only by having you on but when you were on, he was really a master at getting the material, setting up your material, teeing you up, giving you the space. You know, and if you hit a lull, he would pick it up.

I mean, he was gracious and a great partner in a way that I’ve never seen anybody else do. And I don’t know that we chatted a whole bunch, but his support and his seal of approval was evident, and as I said the thing that was so masterful about him was how he would help your comedy.

You know, if you ever listened to the first time anybody comes on, he always gives that same speech: “Hey, I’m glad you’re in a good mood tonight because here’s …” And he wants you to do well. Nothing made him happier than somebody scoring on his show.

There’s… Johnny!: 1972, Burbank, California. 19-year-old Andy Klavin is surprised to have stumbled his way into a job at “The Tonight Show” starring his hero, Johnny Carson. A coming-of-age story, we follow this kid who up till now has never left Nebraska, and is now cuaght up in the glamorous, fast lane of Hollywood. Sex, drugs, rock & roll – and show business; it’s a long, magical journey ahead.
George Dickie

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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