Tonight on Carson — 06/01/1978

Johnny Carson

Guests:  Bruce Dern, Susan Sullivan, Robert Klein, Carl Sagan

One of the local channels here rebroadcasts old Tonight Shows with Johnny Carson in their entirety.  I was a huge fan of Johnny Carson growing up and so I love watching these old shows.  Not only do I get to see Johnny and Ed and Doc and Tommy Newsome again, but it is like watching a time capsule of what was going on back then.

Tonight’s episode originally aired on June 1, 1978.  I would have been in high school at that time and I may or may not have watched this particular episode back then.  I tuned in late tonight, so I missed the monologue (my favorite part).

I also missed Bruce Dern.  I’m not sure what Bruce would have been flogging in 1978.  According to IMDB, it would have had to have been either “The Driver” or “Coming Home“.   I don’t think I ever saw “The Driver”.   I saw “Coming Home” in the theater and, if memory serves me correctly, I was on an extremely awkward date with a girl I was head-over-heels for at the time.  “Coming Home” isn’t exactly an uplifting movie for a date night.   (Side note about Bruce Dern … I first saw him in “Silent Running” when I was about 9 or 10 and it affected me profoundly at the time.  I’ve often wondered if it held up over time, but I’m afraid to re-watch it and find out.)

When I joined Carson tonight, it was about midway through Robert Klein’s conversation with Johnny.  He was flogging the movie “Hooper“.  I saw that movie, but remember almost nothing about it other than Burt Reynolds and his trademark high-pitched laugh.  At the time Burnt was coming off of his successful string of “Southern white trash” movies like “White Lightening” and “Gator”, “Smokey and the Bandit”, etc.  But Burt wasn’t on Johnny tonight.  Robert Klein was.  I always wanted to like Robert and he was mildly amusing, but I could never seem to like him as much as I wanted to.

After Robert came actress Susan Sullivan.  I was called away from the TV for a bit at this time, so I missed her interview entirely.  I don’t remember her from anything.  According to IMDB, she could have been flogging any number of things, none of which I saw.

But the highlight of the evening was Dr. Carl Sagan!  Woo hoo!  I have a man crush on Sagan big-time.  I have been a rabid fan of his ever since I stumbled across “Cosmos” on PBS when I was in high school.  (And that was the real “Cosmos”, not the cheap knockoff wannabe “Cosmos” that was recently slapped together and trotted out.)  I used to walk around in high school and college and whenever anything in any conversation required a quantity of some sort, I would say, “Billions and billions” in my best Carl Sagan impression (which wasn’t very good at all).  I read all his books.  I planned my life around the airing of “Cosmos” like a junkie (I had no way to record off the air back then).  One of the greatest finds of my life is when I found the complete “Cosmos” box set of DVDs a few years ago at Half Price Books for a mere $50 ($40 after my 20% off coupon).  I could not have been happier if I had found an original copy of the Magna Carta.

Anyway, Sagan was brilliant on Carson tonight.  And, as much as I love Carson, Sagan (quite unintentionally) made Carson look like a chimp having a conversation with Charles Darwin.  Sagan had such a wonderful way of discussing complex topics in a way that Everyman could understand them and get excited about them.  He often came across as a little arrogant, but I was willing to overlook that because of his outstanding abilities to grasp the complex and to present it to us in a fun, but not condescending, way.  Even now, almost 40 years later, I still find myself lapsing into a Carl Sagan impression once in awhile.   So obviously he had a profound impact on me!

So … good show tonight.  I’m sorry I missed most of it, but Carl Sagan made up for missing the monologue.


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