Posts Tagged ‘johnny carson’

The one lesson I learned that The Nightly Show needs to understand

Monday, March 13th, 2017

After the first year of hosting my daily chat show at the Edinburgh Fringe (which is still running thirteen years later), Brian Luff gave me one of the best pieces of advice I have had in my broadcast career. It went something like this:

“I listened to the Fringe podcasts, but now I’ve met you I have to ask… why is the ‘you’ that I see in front of me not in the podcast? I want to spend time with that person.”

You can have the latest names, the greatest guests, and the biggest world-changing ideas, but these will only get people to engage with a show once. If they are going to engage a second time, or become regular viewers, they will only come back if there is something consistent that they want to spend time with. I took Brian’s advice, and came up with a rule that I have relied on ever since…

People come once for a guest, but they stay for the host.

Tonight, ITV will launch the third version of ’The Nightly Show’. The first version launched two weeks ago with David Walliams hosting. The second version launched next week with John Bishop. Tonight’s version belongs to Davina McCall. Next week will be the fourth version with Dermot O’Leary.

There is nothing consistent week to week. The second a viewer starts to get comfortable with a host’s style and decides that they’re happy to spend time with them late at night, the host changes. You can’t start building up a reputation for guests, for games, or for viral videos until the foundation is in place. Choose a host and give them a long run to build a relationship with the audience.

That’s why the US late-night shows are as powerful as they are. Every host has been given the time to settle in to find their own footing and their own audience. Stephen Colbert has taken close to a year to understand ’The Late Show’, Trevor Noah is slowly moving out from under the shadow of Jon Stewart on ‘The Daily Show’, James Cordon’s routine has evolved over time on ‘Late-Late‘…

I don’t buy the argument that ITV can’t do a daily chat show, but it needs to understand the unique demands of the format does not always line up with the ‘celebrity guest’ culture that has developed in the UK scene over the last two decades. Find a host, find a team, and let them work through the problems for at least a six-month run.

And if you need proof that a long-term commitment will slowly grow into a daily success story… look at ‘The One Show’.

Two Grown Men… The Podcast Of The Aftermath

Friday, March 21st, 2014

This should be fun. The Carson Podcast interviews comedians who have one thing in common – they all got their big break from Johnny Carson and ‘The Tonight Show’ Now available in iTunes and via RSS.

Remembering the ‘Sis… Boom… Bah…’ of late-night

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Delightful archive article from 1978 on The Tonight Show, and a look at Johnny Carson’s reign on late-night US television. I wonder if we’ll look back at Fallon’s time with such detail and honesty?

During the monologue on May 11, 1977, he finds, as sometimes happens, that certain words are emerging from his mouth in slightly garbled form. He wrinkles his brow in mock alarm, shrugs, and presses on to the next sentence: “Yetserday, U.S. Steel announced. . .” He pauses, realizing what he has said, turns quizzically to McMahon, and observes, “ ‘Yesterday’ is not a hard word to say.”

Facing the camera again, he goes on, “Yesterday—all my troubles seemed so far away . . .” Only now he is singing—singing, unaccompanied, the celebrated standard by John Lennon and Paul McCartney: “Now it looks as though they’re here to stay. Oh, I believe in yesterday.” By this time, the band, which was clearly taken by surprise, has begun to join in, at first raggedly but soon improvising a respectable accompaniment. Warming to his berserk task, Carson does not stop until he has reached the end of the chorus.

He resumes the monologue: “Now, what was I talking about? Oh, yes. Yesterday . . .”

But no sooner has the word passed his lips than Doc’s combo, determined not to let him off the hook, strikes up the melody again. Undaunted, Carson plunges into the second chorus. Having completed it, he silences the musicians with a karate chop. There is loud applause, followed by an extended pause.

Where can he go from here? Cautiously feeling his way, he continues, “about twelve hours ago, U.S. Steel announced . . .” And successfully finishes the gag. Everyone in the studio is laughing, not so much at the joke as at the sight of Carson on the wing.

Leno vs. Conan, in words!

Monday, June 27th, 2011

You know what looks a good read for the summer? The War for Late Night. If it’s anything like Bill Carter’s previous book (which would be The Late Shift, essentially Leno vs. Carson), then it will be wonderful, humorous, and disappointing all at the same time.

Conan Online

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

I’ve been watching the fun and games over The Tonight Show with a mixture of awe and incredulity. It shouldn’t be a surprise to regular readers that I have a huge amount of respect for Johnny Carson – in fact the single phrase I pushed as the “takeaway” from my “How to interview people” session at Blogworld Expo was Watch lots of Carson.

Upshot is, popular late night host Conan O’Brien is now leaving The Tonight Show for destinations unknown. While it’s likely that Fox will eventually take him on board, there will be a lot of people (Revision3!) suggesting that he goes online and does the show there.

So, who won?

If Coco thought his lead in from Jay Leno was hurting him, just wait till he realises that the web has no lead-in beyond the occasional Digg headline (although he might have some help there). Do I think he will go online? Probably not. But if he did, then it would

Talk Shows are traditionally one of the cheaper forms of TV to put in place – although the hosts can gather in telephone number salaries compared to CSI Scarborough the bottom line is much smaller. But going online means a lot less income… a lot. Arguably O’Brien and his exec producer have been given their Frak You money from NBC (hey my Mum reads this, okay!) so they don;t need to worry about salary, but the running of a Tonight Online show would take some serious commitment to do it to the same level as NBC… or even better.

But O’Brien has advantages that few media producers online have. He transcends the web and there is the obvious name and brand recognition that he has – it’s almost given that any Ad Sales team would be able to cover running costs on any show, even if Hollywood sized wages wouldn’t be on the cards.

I’d argue that there hasn’t yet been a breakout show from the web – the closest in the UK has been Ask Me This Answer Me This (which I should really have remembered) who received a one off radio commission for an “End of 2009” show on BBC Radio, or Limmy (thanks to @iainmhepburn for the nudge) with his BBC Scotland TV Series. O’Brien is in the position where he could become the show that makes “a TV show on the Internet” a reality.

But it’s risky. Horribly risky. And the upside for him is far far less than trying to get all the Fox affiliates to stop doing lucrative re-runs and run him head to head to head against Letterman and Leno.

Much as Coco online would be the most entrepreneurial move to make, I think we’ll continue to look for a new online video hero, and it’ll be someone new to the media mix, not an established star moving to a new field.

Las Vegas, Blog World Expo, and Johnny Carson

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

Looming up on the horizon is Blog World Expo, which happens this year in Las Vegas on October 15-17th. It’s subtly different this year as this conference and the Podcast and New Media Expo have merged to create one big conference, and stop all the problems that bloggers and ‘casters had last year trying to decide which one to go to (given they were (a) both in Vegas and (b) about 4 weeks apart).

I’ve attended both events in the past. Last year I was at Blog World (the New Media expo ran during the Edinburgh Fringe last year, so made my decision easy). In previous years I had attended all the New Media Expo’s when they were held in Ontario, California.

Obviously (given this blog post) I’ll be attending the conference this October. I’ll also be speaking. Here are the details:

…and Senator You’re No Johnny Carson – But You Can Be A Great Interviewer
Ewan Spence, rm 229 at 5pm on Friday October 16th.

Drawing on my experience from the Edinburgh Fringe Interviews, the All About Symbian Insight podcasts and various other bits and pieces (such as live radio) I’ll be taking about how I go about preparing to interview someone for rich media (as opposed to a written piece, although most of it would carry over); how to conduct the interview to make the most of your time, and what to do when the interview is all over – alongside a practical demonstration with the help of a very special guest star!

If you can’t make the seminar, I’m sure the PowerPoint will be kicking around; an ebook from myself of the lectures notes will be hosted somewhere; and a bundle of pictures on Flickr and Twitpic of my special guests; but if you want a single takeaway from the presentation it will be this.

Be yourself as much as you can be, and if you want some notes… Just watch lots of Johnny Carson


Ed McMahon: The Master’s Master. RIP

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Ed McMahon died today.


Both of them will be missed, but wherever they are it’s going to be a fantastic show tonight.

The Tonight Show with Ewan Spence… Leith Tonight that is

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Next week sees the start of the Leith Festival, which runs from Thursday 4th June to Sunday 14th June. As part of the local community effort, I will be returning to the airwaves on our local radio station Leith FM, to host a late evening chat show.

The team did try to think up some great names (especially as the show is likely to go on after the Festival finishes and become a flagship Arts and Culture show on the station), but the best we can come up with is Leith Tonight.

Starting this Monday (1st June) and then running nightly for the next 14 nights, I’ll be joined by other Leith FM presenters doing their best Ed McMahon impressions, along with studio guests, live bands, the occasional outside broadcast, and whatever feels right when we sit down for our production meetings.

Those of you in range of the transmitter can tune in to 98.8FM. If you’re further away the station has an internet stream available and a podcast of each show will be made available the day afterwards (I’ll point to that from here once it goes live)

It should be great fun, and of course I’ll have my Twitterstream open during the whole show, alongside @leithfmradio.

Now, I’m away to learn from the Master…