R2 Entertainment // 1977 // 37 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // December 18th, 2010
Johnny Carson was funny. If you doubt that, catch some of the show compilations that have been released on DVD, especially The Ultimate Johnny Carson Collection that features some of the funniest bits from his decades spanning career on television. Some of the biggest names in television spent time on Johnny's couch trading barbs, quips and stories with what is undoubtedly the master of late night TV, alpha and omega. Jerry Seinfeld, Robin Williams, Rodney Dangerfield and Rosanne Barr all got their start on "The Tonight Show" stage. Now Carson's estate is releasing some of his most popular shows in full on DVD, like The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (Show Date: 05/04/77); even though, at a scant 37 minutes, this isn't technically a full show.
To start out Carson strolls onstage and delivers his patented monologue. Many topics are covered and many of them are already outdated: Lee Majors, General Motors lawsuits, Frost/Nixon interviews, the Russians and defective eggs ("Never buy an egg if it's scotch taped together. Never buy an egg from a hen in an alley"). The monologue is mildly humorous, mostly because Carson and sidekick Ed McMahon trade exchanges.
Carson's first guest is comedy superstar Chevy Chase, fresh off his controversial leave from Saturday Night Live and plugging a special he was starring in at the time (clearly not memorable, since I'm a big Chase fan and have never heard of it). Unfortunately, Chase is so wet behind the ears here that he displays none of his detached, comedic genius that would show up a few years later in National Lampoon's Vacation and Caddyshack. There are the requisite jokes about Carson's marriage(s) and an introduction to Chase's now ex-wife in the audience, but generally this isn't the funniest interview segment ever given with Chevy Chase. Chase eventually shows the audience how to do a pratfall, which is only mildly amusing (falling over a chair kinda went out of style about 25 years ago). Clearly this is a star in the infancy of his career.
Next up is Richard Pryor who fairs far better than Chase. His interview is amusing. There is some funny interplay between Chase, Carson, Pryor and McMahon -- Pryor's Italian impression is pretty funny -- and the bulk of the interview tends to be about Pryor, marriages and divorces. I especially liked the throwback when Pryor took out some photo slides to show Carson and company (when was the last time you saw anyone show any slides?). Pryor also talks a bit about a special he's apart of and the show pretty well wraps up from there.
Overall, this is a decent watch, if you're a fan of Johnny Carson, Chevy Chase, or Richard Pryor. Otherwise, there isn't a lot to recommend in this very short interview clip show.
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (Show Date: 05/04/77) is presented in 1.33:1 full frame on a DVD-R. Bluntly put, this transfer looks like you're watching a mediocre cable rerun of this show. Not much more to say about the image quality, except that if you want the experience of seeing this show how it was presented in TV in the '70s, this transfer is for you. The soundtrack is presented in a passable 1.0 Dolby Digital mix.
For Johnny Carson diehards only.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: R2 Entertainment
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 37 Minutes
Release Year: 1977
MPAA Rating: Not Rated