Will Stephen Colbert Pass the “Timeless” Test?

My friend Wally Podrazik, the television historian who teaches a course called “Future TV,” asked me a question that he was sure I’d turn into a commentary:

Would you say, looking at the landscape since 1992, that Johnny Carson is as timeless as ever and still stands as the best in that genre? Does Colbert have an outside shot at being a respected name in that tradition?

I have cleverly chosen the covers of Time magazine to respond to the “timeless” question.

Can Johnny Carson‘s 30-year late-night career be compared to Stephen Colbert before Colbert’s show even starts? Moreover, it’s 2015. Is Johnny Carson still timeless? If you are under 30, do you know his name?

On the other, compare Kimmel and Fallon: who is more likely to have a lasting impact? In this case, it’s a fair fight, as they are contemporaries. Carson and Colbert aren’t competitors.

In 1991, when Johnny Carson already had become “timeless,” he posed a question to David Letterman, revealing the younger comic’s own doubts about the future:

Watch the full clip and you’ll see Carson asking Letterman how he feels about NBC choosing Jay Leno to take over “The Tonight Show” instead of Letterman. The conversation is noteworthy because we now know that Carson favored Letterman.

Leno got “The Tonight Show” and Letterman lost out. But who actually won? It’s Letterman who is considered a legend, while Leno is thought of as a bland crybaby.

Will Stephen Colbert be a disapointment?

I’m already getting myself ready for disappointment with Colbert’s debut. I’ve read so many articles, all of them interesting, all of them talking about what a smart, talented host might do. And all of them speaking of Colbert as if he’s a religious figure.

Frankly, I found Colbert’s summertime teaser videos a little childish and unfunny. On CBS, I hope he continues to gives us content like this:


That interview with Stephen Sondheim is an intersection of Colbert’s knowledge, singing ability and goofiness.

Will Colbert be the next Johnny Carson?

“Does Colbert have an outside shot at being a respected name in [the] tradition [of Johnny Carson]?” Wally asks.

What tradition? Young Letterman had no chance to be respected in the Jack Paar tradition, but he ended up redefining the tradition.

Colbert will have to do his own redefining.

The traditions of the live audience, band, sidekick, desk, opening monologue, political commentary, offering snarky comments about your employer and featuring young actresses tempting the censors with their outfits — those traditions will continue.

What will Colbert do to layer something new, different and exciting on top of all that? I hope it involves at least a little Stephen Sondheim.

For My Birthday, Please Pronounce “February” Correctly

Who put the “you” in “February”?

This is my month and I wish you would pronounce it correctly.

My birthday — the first of the month — ushers in 28 (or 29) days of the most mispronounced period on the calendar. I understand that marketers are trying to personalize their message by inserting “you” in everything, but that doesn’t mean we have to accept Feb-YOO-ary.

February pronunciation

Who put the "you" in February? I don't see it anywhere in there.

Yet professional newscasters and announcers lately have succumbed to widespread adoption of this error. Given the amount of time broadcasters historically have spent in bars, you’d think they could pronounce a word that has “brew” in the middle.

In honor of poor February — short, cold (except for 2012) and mispronounced — I am declaring it National Let’s Stop the Mispronunciation Madness Month.

Continue reading

Black-Eyed Peas Guaranteed 30 Years of Bar Mitzvah Party DJ Play

Mazel Tov!

Many, if not most Americans, I’d guess, know this phrase is used by Jews when congratulating other Jews on such happy occasions as weddings, bar mitzvahs and the birth of a child.

But, seriously, how did this most Jewish of Jewish expressions make its way into the wildly popular “I Gotta Feeling,” performed (annoyingly auto-tuned) by the Black Eyed Peas at halftime of Superbowl XLV?

Chicago musician Stuart Rosenberg, a talented bandleader who has played for countless simchas (happy occasions), provided an explanation for me on Facebook: “The Peas put that in to guarantee that song would be played by every DJ at every bar mitzvah for the next 30 years.”

Rosenberg, founder of the League of Creative Musicians, is probably right. The seventh graders who populate bar mitzvah parties love to shout “Mazel Tov!” when it comes up in the lyrics, seemingly at random, during the song.

Actually, the bar mitzvah DJ playlist might be more diverse if other groups also had injected their tunes with some Yiddishkeit (Jewishness).

For example, what if…

  • Elvis had used fermisht as a synonym for “All Shook Up”?
  • Stevie Wonder had thrown kine-ahora (ward off the evil eye) into “Superstition”?
  • KC and the Sunshine Band had sneaked shep naches (experience joy) between the lines of “That’s the Way I Like It”?

Other suggestions are welcome, of course.

Meanwhile, the overuse of “I Gotta Feeling” seems to drive Stuart Rosenberg crazy:

“All the more reason to have a live band, not a DJ,” he says.

And to Stuart, I’ll shout “Yasher koach” (may you have strength), something that’s often said to scholars after they give a particularly insightful commentary.

Blizzards, bread and Internet fractals

Chicago is literally “under the weather” today, meaning that we are under a thousand feet of snow.

Does it seem that when there’s a blizzard, people crave bread?

Lia Lehrer has a humorous take on that question in a post today.

BTW, this blog had its official debut yesterday. I would have been online long ago, but I got confused and started paying attention to the Blagosphere (news about former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich).

But I’m here now. Michael Lehrer poses the question of where I fit in to the Blogosphere, and he offers a the Blogofractal cartoon from XKCD as a reference. I think I’m in there somewhere between liars and ponies.

© 2015 Mr. Communicator

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑