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tv   The Story of Late Night  CNN  June 5, 2021 10:00pm-11:00pm PDT

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would cancel the show. because i felt like, i can't do this anymore, i can't deal with this much stress. >> have a good weekend, everybody, i'm getting the hell out of here, good night! all right, all right. my name is carson, and this is going to be a party. >> johnny carson was late night television. >> you are correct, sir, yes. >> but when dave came on, i felt like it was a show for me. >> maybe you will get some, maybe you won't. >> it was a huge deal who's going to get the throne. >> you don't need big boobs to be feminine. look at liberace. >> it was these two titans going head to head. >> this is like entertainment from the ninth century. geeks, trolls, mutants. >> you and jay, you're my favorite.
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♪ are you better off than you were four years ago? >> ladies and gentlemen, rock 'n roll. >> a yellow creature gobbles dots while being pursued through a maze. >> did you see the picture in the magazine with reagan riding a horse on his ranch with bush running behind with a poer scooper? >> johnny had a sweeping popularity. he was around for a long time. there was something about his presence that when he speaks, everybody listens and everybody else falls silent. >> it would be kind of interesting to see reagan as president, wouldn't it? might not be so bad. i'm kind of tired of presidents that play golf and play softball and jog. i'd like to see a president who
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just sits there and dozes off. >> here's how i realized how good johnny carson was. i was a guest and i was doing a bit from the couch. and the bit was about how people annoy you when they touch you. >> you just want to deck them. so anyway -- >> and as i'm doing the joke, i see he realized his arm was not really close enough. >> what they're doing is keeping you from fleeing. >> so rather than move it, he actually did did this, put his hand up, scratched his head, and reset it two inches closer to me. >> you know it's interesting so, we moved all our savings to a cd. oh! >> that's genius. and great. and it is tiny and he probably did that 20 times a day for 30 years. >> in 1980, carson was the star on nbc. so he's negotiating a new contract, and he is going to hold nbc's feet to the fire.
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>> he had all the leverage, and he got a massive contract which included control of the next show following "the tonight show." >> he says, i am going to control the 11:30 hour which is "the carson show." and the 12:30 hour. >> following johnny was originally tom snyder. and tom was just straight interviews. >> did you think when you were starting that it would ever evolve into this mystique that has come to surround the group called the grateful dead? >> we didn't think when we were starting. >> no, we didn't think. >> johnny carson took out tom snyder and he put david letterman in there. >> david letterman had the great luxury of the most powerful man in television being his biggest fan. >> dave letterman is back. you're going to host a late night television program that premieres monday night. what are critics likely to say tuesday morning? >> i don't much care because i found a way to deal with that, pills and whiskey. >> the buildup to that show was just immense.
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because we were still on the heels of that morning show cancellation, even though we did win emmys for that. when we went to the late night show, we were given certain restrictions. >> you can't have a monologue. monologue is johnny's. they said we couldn't have a horn section. that's johnny's sound. your sound is rock 'n roll. >> and you couldn't have a sidekick like ed mcmahon come sit down with you and schmooze. and i remember thinking, that's it? the world is left after that. >> they kind of forced us into becoming the show for a different generation. >> now, a man shouldn't be up this late! david letterman! >> dave came walking out in the peacock girls which we had used on the morning show. bill murray is our first guest. ♪ let's get physical, physical, i want to get physical ♪
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♪ let's get into physical ♪ >> we're sort of off and running from that moment on. >> at that time, television was polished and perfected. and when dave came on, it felt like someone had broken into the studio and got the cameras. and you couldn't stop watching it. >> letterman is taking apart all the old-fashiod talk show conventions at the same time as it is informed by steve allen to ernie kovacs and "saturday night live." it's deconstructive style, this rebellious style of comedy. >> we've dismissed the studio audience. they're on their way home. and we're going to do a show from our 14th floor offices. >> everything was weird and new and exotic and wacky. >> it was a college kid's sensibility for the audience who dared to stay up later, and they were younger and they were a little wilder, and that's what the show was.
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>> when i was a young teenager, i liked to stay up late, and i was just entranced by it. >> excuse me, dave. i've got make a phone call. >> help yourself. >> we loved dave, we loved paul. >> letter number three. dear dave, does paul serve any particular function on the show? >> i mean, that man was integral to that show. >> now paul, wait a minute, what exactly are you trying to say? >> i'm saying let's trash this thing. >> oh, no, no, paul, i don't -- see -- oh no. >> on my 16th birthday, my mom made me a late night with david letterman cake and had a letterman jacket made for me. it was embarrassing. >> even when we were in high school, we were recording letterman and watching the top ten list before we would go to school. >> the top ten dogs science fair projects. number ten, water dish versus toilet bowl, taste test. >> one of the bits i always
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think of is when he went to a store called "just bulbs." >> the name of the store is just bulbs, and that's exactly what we sell, just bulbs. >> he kept on asking the woman in the store if they had anything else. other than lightbulbs. >> besides bulbs, what do you have here? >> nothing. >> how about shades? could you get shades here? >> no, we are just bulbs. if you want shades, maybe you go to a place called just shades. >> do you sell bulbs? >> no, we do not. our primary interest is shades. >> it's just so funny and so unlike anything that we'd ever seen before on tv. >> the entire time in college, david letterman is redefining late night television. some of the early remotes. >> here we see alan alda, and i guess that's paul. now what kind of food does he enjoy? >> he like-a string beans, and
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he like-a cold noodle with sesame sauce. >> the show that rotates throughout the whole hour. >> we are at 116 degrees now. >> it's like being on a really cheap cruise, isn't it? >> the sketches that are so weird. >> would you people leave me alone? this is an experiment, damn it? >> it was perfect. >> i heard dave say the time he felt alive was the hour he did the show. but you know, if there's one thing that everybody who works for him will say is that he was perpetually unhappy. and, you know, every show was a disaster. >> i read some of our press, and some people seemed to like it. but then some people really did not like it. the problem with my memories about that show is i was living with the host. and because we'd been canceled on the morning show, he felt every single day that he was getting canceled again. >> she and letterman were involved for years. the show was really sort of the baby of the two of them. >> what's he like in bed?
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>> well, actually, i do have some recent findings that i thought i could share with you. >> now cut that out.
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it would be cool to ride a horse on the moon.
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has been helping people act on their love. okay? so they can look back, and say, "we did good". there's a joke that goes, what's the difference between johnny carson and david letterman? the answer, merrill markoe.
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>> dave had an original, interesting voice, and i think i brought a level of weird art school to it. >> the baffling, the absurdist. >> but i was clueless that the show was a success or a failure. so mostly my memories that everything could have gotten us canceled. >> and finally, our head writer merrill markoe with the new sitcom that takes place in florida, so i'm sold. merrill markoe, ladies and gentlemen. >> i would feel light-headed and almost faint when he would do a run-through of the comedy material. because i would feel that if it didn't go well, you know, i would let him down. >> i was calling it, modestly, "my little merrill." >> "my little merrill." >> dave was miserable most of the time. it was always, i suck, i suck snot.
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>> the boss will be here for dinner just a minute. is everything ready. did you set the table? >> set the table? >> i felt i was living in a bunker. >> i thought you said, wreck the table. >> i ended up firing myself from my job because i thought that it would do better without me being in the line of fire for dave. >> every year merrill markoe wrote for late night with david letterman, they won the emmy for best writing. she ends up stepping down. they never won another emmy for best writing. >> letterman always took what he did on the air as part of his real life. he would talk to his mother on the show, and afterwards he'd say, oh, boy, i'm glad i got to talk to her tonight. now i don't have to call her the rest of the week. >> thank you very much for the broadway tickets. that's great. >> and what about all the love and entertainment i provide nightly for the american viewing public?
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>> that's wonderful. >> there was always that worry that dave's irreverence was going to alienate guests. >> feel it, it's like a little -- like a little bosom or something, feel that. >> he and i went back and forth. that's why people watched the show, because they never knew what he was going to say. >> this is your idea of a little bosom? >> you're at work, harvey. relax. >> this represents one of the fleet of your new shuttle service. >> watch, this don. >> whoa! my gosh. whoa! >> it was very unusual to see the amount of hostility between talk show and guest, then or now. >> what do you mean is this as good as it gets? like what would have been a better thing to say to you? >> i don't know. because i thought i would never want to do this show with you. >> now, why? because you thought i was -- >> an [ muted ] hole.
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>> one of the great standard and practice notes of all time, they gave us the choice. you can either bleep ass or bleep hole, but you can't have both. so we bleeped ass and kept hole. >> the show in the early days often booked faded stars. desi arnaz, henry morgan who was a comedian back in the '50s and '60s. these guy could get on letterman because letterman couldn't get anybody else. >> there was no better guest in the first years of david letterman was jay leno. >> i don't like food that has sexual connotations. you know? i don't want a whopper. i don't want wendy hot and juicy on my burger. and i especially don't want any secret sauce on any of it, all right, pal? >> they came up in the clubs together. they had a rapport together. >> and that's where leno and letterman forged their friendship. >> i think it was summer of '75.
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jay leno, who is at this point sleeping in his car off the 405, lived for the punchline. it's a part of him. >> i never realized about the nude beach? they actually have nude vendors. i cannot buy food from a nude 300-pound man. get your hot dogs here! nothing for me, thank you. >> and i think dave learned a bunch from him. jay was really i would say big man on campus. >> jay and i were friends. we were always friends. and i'm happy to say i think is the funniest guy i've ever known. just the funniest. >> it's always a pleasure to introduce a new comedian to "the tonight show." this young man's name is jay leno. >> jay did four appearances on "the tonight show." >> but you think people will care about the environment in 100 years? i don't know if kids will hang around saying things like, remember that old shopping mall where we used to play pinball? there's a lake there now. >> the first one was really strong. by the fourth one, they said he wasn't funny anymore.
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so from '78 until '86, he wasn't on "the tonight show." he was just in the wilderness there. >> i think jay was almost out of show business when dave started to bring him back. >> it wasn't until i got to letterman that i could really be myself. i think we made each other better. >> your mom was kind enough to give us a photo of your bedroom when you were 11. this is taken from the book. can you get a shot of that there? there we go. >> he killed it. he killed it time and time again. >> do you like the circus? >> i haven't been since i was a young boy. >> it's a traveling civil lytic sideshow. come on, these diseased animals and hermaphrodite clowns throwing -- >> when i would go on letterman, i would always try to find phrases dave would like. talk about going to the carnival, syphilitic, anthrax spores at children -- >> when people are laughing on the way to the joke, that's when
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you know you've got it. >> this is the december issue of "success" magazine. just coincidentally, i happen to be on the december issue of "super success." >> jay leno came to our attention again because he would go on to david letterman's show and shine. >> his popularity grew. and then he came back on "the tonight show." >> jay leno is a very funny gentleman. he's been a regular with david letterman, and prior to that he was here with us on "the tonight sh show". would you welcome, please, mr. jay leno. >> and really, he nailed it. >> my wife's cat ran away for three days. sends me out in the middle of night, driving around looking for cat, like the cat is going to stick to the main road. n c. one product and it does it all. yay, spf! garnier brightening serum cream. already more than 1000 5 star reviews. by garnier, naturally.
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it is hard to believe that i have been with nbc for 25 long years. you cannot -- no, wait a minute. [ cheers and applause ] you can't buy loyalty like that, but they did. >> by 1986, johnny carson is making all this money, plus he only had to be there three nights a week. there was a rerun at the start of the week, and then there was frequently guest hosts throughout the week, maybe bob
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newhart, maybe garry shandling. >> and that opens the door for joan rivers. >> here's joan rivers! >> joan rivers in the 1980s became one of johnny carson's primary guest hosts. >> i hate to exercise, oh! the only time my body moves, when i'm holding a vibrator. i'm serious! >> she was one of his favorite guests in the early days of his show. >> carson and my mom had this amazing on-air chemistry. >> my marriage, there's nothing, there's no romance left. >> oh, come on. >> last time there was any sexual, you know, he was doing push-ups, and i slid in. otherwise -- [ laughter ] >> she was saying what everybody was thinking but was scared to say. it would go from the gasp to the laugh. and that was her genius.
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>> you don't need big boobs to be feminine. look at liberace. >> carson was definitely a mentor, and you hang on to those relationships where there is that magic. >> thank you for my career. thank you for letting me guest host for you, because i would not be sitting here ever. they all thought i stank, and you're the first one to say you're funny. >> thank you. we'll be back in a moment. >> so joan rivers is the permanent guest host when i start watching late night tv. i have this instant idea that women can be funny, women can be part of late night television. >> as much as i loved johnny, it was a holiday when joan rivers subbed for him. >> i have the same thing. >> of course she dreamed of getting johnny's job permanently. why wouldn't she? she was the heir apparent.
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a big executive at nbc came to my parents' house and said to them, i've seen the memo of the possible replacements for carson. your name is not on the list. you'll always just be a guest host. it was devastating. my mother was so upset. and felt like carson knew all this and was letting it happen. and fox came in and wooed my mom and wooed my dad. edgar. >> edgar had always been her producer throughout her entire career. the fox network was brand new. and they wanted sort of a marquee late night talk show. >> joan calls me late at night at home and says, i have signed a deal to go with them.
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and i said, what? johnny's going to go nuts when he hears about this. >> johnny had no idea that she took that show and didn't tell him about it. that really rubbed him the wrong way. >> then joan rivers phoned him after carson had already heard. >> and she said, johnny, it's joan, and he hung up. >> i'm devastated, because i just love him, and he started me. and i think i'm going to be so proud of this. >> johnny wanted nothing to do with her ever again. >> now she's got her own show. the johnny versus joanie headlines and the "people" magazine cover. "joan goes to war." it became a national phenomenon like these two titans going head to head. >> live from fox television center in hollywood, it's "the late show" starring joan rivers!
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and now, ladies and gentlemen, miss joan rivers! >> every major star wanted to do the show. the first night, cher, elton john singing "the bitch is back." it was insane and exciting and wonderful. and then the problems started. >> there was nobody more competitive than johnny carson. and if johnny perceived somebody was disloyal, the relationship was over. >> oh, i think absolutely "the tonight show" was trying to punish my mom. the carson show made it very collar that if you did her show, you were no longer welcome on the carson show. >> when the show didn't do as well as fox had hoped, they started meddling, and they kind of took the power away from her husband. >> my dad edgar did all the business. he did all the negotiations. he did everything to make sure that all my mom ever had to do is be funny and charming and loved.
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but it got so petty that when they would send the car every day to pick up my mom, the rule was my father was not allowed to ride in the limo with her. the whole fox show just became this giant cluster [ muted ]. >> i can't remember how long it stayed on, but it was less than a year. >> and it just was a very fast and sad demise. and it was so bad that it was i believe one of the factors that sent my father into such a massive depression that he killed himself. from the notes he left and from knowing my father, he really felt the only way to save her was to go away. my mom pulled herself out of it because that's just who she is.
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she was completely blackballed. she was never allowed back on any nbc late-night show until jimmy fallon. >> there was some ban of joan rivers that started back with johnny carson. but to me she's a legend, and i love joan rivers, and i'd love to have her back on "the tonight show." >> welcome back to the network, joan. this is you in this same studio in 1965. with johnny. >> and he said, god bless him, you're going to be a star. it changed my life. >> she just felt emotional. and i got emotional. we looked at each other and almost lost it. >> it means a lot to me that you are on the show tonight. i love you so much. >> i love you back, my darling. >> she finally got to go home. there is your emotional moment. my mother absolutely opened the doors for samantha bee and
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chelsea handler and all these women in late night now. she was the one who broke the glass ceiling. like her or don't like her, she had the lump on her head from banging her head against it. every day unilever does good for communities across america. ♪ every squeeze every smile every drop every style every spray every bubble every day dove, suave & hellmann's donate everyday products to local communities. every day u does good. unilever you could take your ulcerative colitis treatment in a different direction.
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it was a very stormy
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february in los angeles. and rick walked into my office and said, we won't have johnny tonight. the road up to the house is flooded out. and i was like, oh, shit. it's february sweeps. so i picked up the phone and i said, johnny, we'll send the nbc news helicopter out to your place in malibu. and he said, warren, are you trying to kill me? and at that moment i realized that there is going to be a time when you don't have johnny. it forced a deeper thinking about what the future would be. we did have david letterman, who was the most obvious choice to succeed johnny. but we also had jay leno coming into his own. when joan rivers got her shot
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over at fox, there is the need to find another recurring sub. and johnny was comfortable giving jay a shot as a guest host. >> i hope you had a speaking role. >> yeah, but i speak more with my eyes sometimes. >> you speak more with your eyes? >> uh-huh, yeah. >> i don't think your eyes can get a word in edgewise. >> when jay was first asked to guest host the show, i remember he was sitting in his hot tub, and jay says to me, you know, i think maybe i can take over the show after johnny leaves. maybe i can do it. and the more he did it, the better he got. >> so jay leno took over as permanent guest host. and i thought he was a natural. >> kind of a snappy dresser now. this is -- looks like fashions by davy crockett here. kind of a hip snake kind of thing. >> jay broke out on the letterman show as the guy, sort of the rebel comic.
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he thought to himself, i am going to the host of "the tonight show." i can't be that guy. that guy is too narrow. so he made a conscious decision to, you know, wear down those edges at least, if not eliminate them. >> actually, "time" magazine says the biggest problem facing americans is litter. you know, they're so concerned about litter, why don't they get rid of those stupid little subscription cards that keep falling out of the magazine? >> dave thought he was selling out to get "the tonight show" away from him, basically. so naturally he thought, i don't respect jay for doing that. >> dave was more of a broadcaster than he was a comedian. and dave had a whole different sensibility. >> the whole question of letterman taking over for johnny, i mean, we would talk about how nice it would be if we had the 11:30 time slot. that was the dream. >> this is my mother. >> this is letterman. can i ask you a question? >> sure. >> has david ever told you that he hopes that i get run over by
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a sparklet's water delivery truck so he can get the 11:30 time period on nbc? has he ever told you that? >> yes, he talks about it frequently. >> letterman's theory was, we've won emmy awards. we won a peabody award, 200 pretty high-quality shows a year. so based on that, we should get the 11:30 time slot. >> one of the most important moments in the history of the dave letterman show is when g.e. bought nbc. >> when general electric bought this company, rca and nbc, i thought i would drop by the general electric building here in midtown manhattan. we just wanted to drop off a little fruit basket and say hello to the folks on the board of directors. can you hear me? >> and david letterman was a broadcaster down to his bones. the idea that this company that makes lightbulbs becoming his boss offended him deeply. >> i am dave letterman.
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nice to meet you. what is your name? >> i'm going to ask you to turn the cameras off, please. >> okay, we just wanted to drop off of op of basket of fruit as a gesture of good will -- >> cut the cameras please. >> just the director -- >> and that was part of the whole bit we did on the air. we used that over and over again as the general electric handshake. >> here it is in slow motion now. the general electric corporate handshake, get a good look at it because -- no. >> this was a running joke for years that's rooted in a kind of working-class anger towards these corporate overlords that letterman really felt deep in his bones. >> dave had such reason to be resentful of the network. he gave them a franchise, and they abused him. they played around with budget. they played around with studio. >> we've generated over $8 billion of revenue, tax-free money for this network. we got our christmas presents
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yesterday. or at least i got mine from brandon tartikoff. here it is. and look, every time you put the lid on there, shards of glass bust off. >> when he realized he had some leverage, he fought back. >> there it is. our nbc family. brandon tartikoff and warren littlefield. and here they are. now this one over here, that's brandon tartikoff. i guess this is warren littlefield. paul, does this look like every police sketch you've ever seen in the newspaper? >> honestly, i thought that it was david letterman, and it was pretty damn funny. dave taking on the man always made dave look good. >> in those days, i was concerned with two things, doing our show, and not upsetting johnny. i just felt like, i'm here, they know i'm here, and i've told them i would like to be considered for the job. beyond that, i wasn't going to do anything. i just didn't want -- i was so uncomfortable with the notion that i would be the one that was trying to leverage johnny out of that chair.
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just say no. >> johnny carson is still number one in 1988, but with cable, things are starting to change. >> at this point, carson was not only a white man, he was an old white man. he was starting to become irrelevant in a lot of ways. it was a golden age of hip-hop. hip-hop culture started to reach white people in the suburbs via things like television, arsenio hall. >> and now let the party begin. it's arsenio hall! >> when arsenio hall comes on to the scene, for the first time, we're feeling, whoa, this could be a game changer. ♪ >> i think you could make an argument that the most memorable moment in the history of late night television was bill clinton playing the saxophone on arsenio hall.
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>> i think he was third in the polls when he went on arsenio. i'm not sure what happened to clinton after that, but i believe he became president. and that's an example of how late night can change things. >> a big name. and a boss. >> i remember there was a few seminal moments in my life. number one i think was arsenio, seeing a performer of color authentically be themselves was groundbreaking and game changing. >> you ever notice when you're in an elevator, no matter how mature you are, no matter how old you are, you always do silly stuff when you're alone and the doors close? you're always like -- >> arsenio hall game out of this milieu of this comedy club boom, super likable guy. when joan rivers was canceled, the show wasn't actually canceled. she was canceled. they had arsenio hall guest host
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the show, and he tested so well, paramount, who was syndicating talk shows, wanted him. and this was sort of the birth and the rise of "the arsenio hall show." >> what's up, y'all? >> and who didn't love going to school in the morning and be like, who, who, who, who, who! >> he had on artists that no one ever had on or ever would have gotten on something like "the tonight show." ♪ from the depths of the sea back to ♪ >> what i loved about arsenio's show too besides his gums and his shoulder pads was his ability to sort of go out in the audience and do his stand-up. >> after that, you don't know which way any of this is going to go. >> it's arsenio hall! >> you could have conversations that you couldn't have with other late night hosts, because he had experiences similar to mine.
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>> against all odds, you were not supposed to make it, but you did. >> i guess as a little black kid it was like, this is comedy. it's for you. i'm thinking of you when i'm telling this joke, just felt so big and crazy. >> arsenio enters that space and totally usurps this power that carson has, and for a new generation, and becomes this late night phenomenon. ♪ >> it showed that black culture was important and that it was diverse, and also that it could make money. >> i think that was the really first time where it was like, geez, you may get beaten in ratings here. i think we maybe even did a few times. >> arsenio made a mark, and that really led us into a massive nbc corporate crisis, really, of, pick a side.
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>> there was much discussion about who would replace johnny. >> will it be jay? or will it be dave? >> leno is a company man. letterman's the genius in the tower. >> between you and jay, you're my favorite. >> well, thank you very much. >> and thank you for coming. >> thank you very much. we'll be back right after this. >> and then jay leno's manager helen kushnick wanted to force a decision. >> she was what you want in a manager. she was aggressive. she wouldn't take no for an answer. ultimately maybe even a little machiavellian. >> helen kushnick, she then plants a story in "the new york post." >> and it was that nbc wanted johnny out because he was getting old, and they wanted jay, this fresh young guy in there. and johnny knew that it came through helen, and helen lied to jay's face and said no, it didn't come from us.
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so jay goes to see johnny, goes down to his dressing room, and says, it didn't come from us. and johnny says, i know it did. so there was tension from then on. >> and and nbc executives were in this bind. >> it was a huge deal about who is going to get the throne. >> the story was, at the time, that is arsenio going to take over? is he the new king? >> so, we did one sketch at the end of the season called carsenio. where johnny, now, was arsenio. >> here's arsenio! >> all right. my name is carsenio and this is going to be a party. >> you are correct, sir. yes. >> it was johnny, but he had
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arsenio's hair. you know, and he was doing all the whooping. >> did you see this? you just do this, you go, whoop, whoop, whoop. and they -- they go crazy. it's just wild, weird stuff. >> yes! >> we heard that he really was upset by it. >> of course, i don't remember what to do. i am getting senile. both of us. couple of old farts is what we are. >> johnny told somebody, you know what? when they start to make fun of you, it's time to go.
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there was no more important presentation, than the upfront presentation. and in may of '91, we chose carnegie hall. >> the upfront, which is where the new prime-time season and the stars of yesteryear and today are introduced to the advertising community of new york. >> we had got johnny carson to actually come, my first presentation. to come and -- and talk to the crowd. and the entire audience is sitting there, and they are waiting and waiting and waiting.
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>> so, i'm sitting backstage with johnny. and when johnny tells me that he's got a surprise in mind. >> ladies and gentlemen, here's johnny. it was the most thrilling moment, in my life. and the crowd went nuts. >> i'm going, wow, he's about to announce he's not gonna be there, anymore. >> he announced that this would be his final year. and he would be leaving. >> he just said, i'm done. i'm -- i'm -- i'm just done. i'm done. >> it was like, oh, my god. it was truly a holy-shit moment. we knew nothing. johnny, which is classically johnny, he made a decision that was right for him. and it was -- it was an earthquake in new york. >> after years of speculation, rumors, cocktail-party conversations, and just plain, old gossip, johnny carson has
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finally made it official. >> he announces that at carnegie hall. he walks a few blocks, over to the sixth floor of nbc. >> johnny carson made a surprise visit to late night with david letterman, last night. he confirmed rumors that next year would be his last year as host of "the tonight show." >> it's coming to an end, you know, next year. i always wanted to be a shepherd. >> reporter: the most frequently mentioned successor to his chair is comedian jay leno. >> jay is sensational and jay is our permanent-guest host but we have not made that announcement, yet, as to who the successor to johnny will be. >> everybody is in a state of shock. including letterman. >> well, that's when, i think, the wheels started spinning. that, okay, we've got to make sure it's us. >> dave is the obvious choice. he's -- he has sat at that desk. he's been a loyal soldier, and he's the best guy in tv. what more do you need? it turns out that, you do need something else. >> yeah, jay had the secret deal.
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jay leno had just signed a new deal that guaranteed jay "the tonight show" whenever johnny stepped down. >> thank you, jay. jay leno. >> it was part of his re-upping as the guest host. and that was that. dealing with dave had become bothersome and draining. and he could be, unnecessarily, rude to network people, not just me. so, did that factor into my decision, as to going with jay leno over dave letterman? you bet it did. >> we knew that jay wouldn be much easier to make a deal with. to retain our ownership and control. and it would be more of a partnership. >> what am i supposed to do? supposed to turn it down? go no? >> right. >> i mean, i was guest hosting for five years.
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the only guest host on the show. and then, it got turned over to me. oh, okay. >> yeah. >> it took us by surprise, that jay was getting the job. and nobody had even talked to us or -- or had a conversation about it. >> so, we go up to new york to meet with david. >> they said we're here to tell you that jay leno will be hosting "the tonight show" at 11:30. and we'd, very much, like you to continue in your role at 12:30. letterman stood up and said, okay, the meeting's over, and walked out. >> people, in my world, think david letterman is the shit. and he's going to get this job. and it doesn't happen. >> the headlines today of new york post scream dave's tv tizzy. >> why don't i just start off with just with a question here? just how pissed off are you?
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>> let me give you a little piece of advice. you -- you keep using language, like that, and you're going to find yourself out of a job. hi. and welcome to all of our viewers here in the united states and all around the world. you are watching cnn. i'm robyn curnow. so just ahead, tensions are high in latin america. as voters head to the polls. why these elections are different, than ever before. and donald trump hitting the stage for the first time in months. why he says china should pay trillions of dollars in compensation for the pandemic. plus, the avengers campus at disneyland is, finally, open. but only to those who live in california. thankfully, our team has a sneak peek. lots o


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