Tag Archives: Johnny Carson

Travel: San Diego Zoo

Panda Canyon is one of nine animal zones at the San Diego Zoo, featuring more than 4,000 animals and 800 species. Uploaded by ucsd.edu.

Living on the East Coast, my initial exposure to the San Diego Zoo has been through Joan Embery, bringing exotic animals to the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (Great American Things, June 28, 2009). Something would crawl on Carson’s shoulder, maybe nip his hand, and Carson would have that look.

But I digress. The San Diego Zoo has more than 4,000 animals of 800 species on its sprawling, beautiful parkland.  A good way to get an overview of the zoo is by gondola…then you can take a bus tour that covers 75% of the park.

Photo by ron niebrugge, uploaded by wildnatureimages.com.

Once you’re ready to see more, the zoo is divided into nine animal zones. They are: Polar Rim (polar bears, reindeer), Panda Canyon, Asian Passage (lion-tailed macaques and Bornean sun bears), Elephant Odyssey, Urban Jungle (giraffes), Africa Rocks (big cats, meerkats), Outback (camels, koalas, wombats), Lost Forest (monkeys, hippos), and Discovery Outpost (children’s zoo, giant tortoises).

Of course, that just scratches the surface of the exotic, interesting, and rare animals found at the zoo. You’ll also see extensive native plant life, large aviaries, and almost all the exhibits are in the open air, not in buildings. And the warm, sunny climate of San Diego helps many of the animals thrive. And who knows…you may just run into Joan Embery her ownself.

TV Show: Late Night with David Letterman

Bill Murray was David Letterman's first guest when Late Night premiered in 1982. I'm pretty sure the show wasn't in black and white, however. Uploaded by blog.living-apologetics.org.

David Letterman accomplished something that no one else could – he made late-night television hip again. Johnny Carson (Great American Things, June 28, 2009) was always cool, but as his show neared its end, his younger audience was losing interest. In 1982, David Letterman moved into the spot formerly held by Tom Snyder, and made staying up after midnight worthwhile again.

Letterman kept the form of a talk show – monologue, band, guests – but never seemed to take any of it too seriously. And he introduced elements that were sometimes irreverent, sometimes banal, and made them both eminently watchable and wildly funny.

Uploaded by time.com.

Many of the segments are legendary – the Top 10 List (from headquarters in some remote burg), Stupid Pet Tricks, Viewer Mail, visits with Larry “Bud” Melman, Throwing Things off a Five-Story Building, visiting his neighbors in New York, such as the gift shop owned by Mujibar and Sirijul. He used his production staff in gags, notably announcer Bill Wendell and bandleader Paul Shaffer. And you knew two things: no two shows were going to be alike, and you were going to laugh out loud at some point in the show.

When Letterman was passed over for the Tonight Show in favor of Jay Leno, he packed up his show and moved to CBS. Most of the bits also moved, though names had to change to “protect” NBC’s intellectual property.

In recent years, Letterman has grown crustier. In fact, I’d say that the best late night host now is Craig Ferguson, host of The Late Late Show. But just as comics of the last generation all owe a debt to Carson, comics of the next generation can thank David Letterman for leading the way in late night innovation.

Actor: Mel Blanc

The great characters of Warner Bros. lost their voice in July, 1989. Uploaded by eraserart.com.

The great characters of Warner Bros. lost their voice in July, 1989. Uploaded by eraserart.com.

Bugs Bunny. Porky Pig. Sylvester. Tweety. Daffy Duck. Elmer Fudd. Yosemite Sam. Barney Rubble. Pepe Le Pew. Foghorn Leghorn. Speedy Gonzales. Marvin the Martian. Woody Woodpecker. 400 different voices in all.

Blanc’s impact is so great that it’s impossible to even conceive of what animation would have been like without him. His first voice job for Warner Brothers was Porky Pig. Though he wasn’t the first voice of Porky, he made the character uniquely his own – as he did with all his voices. He worked almost exclusively for Warner, though he voiced Woody Woodpecker for Universal and Barney Rubble for Hanna-Barbera.

Mel Blanc, uploaded by born-today.com.

Mel Blanc, uploaded by born-today.com.

He also acted in several radio and television series (The Jack Benny Program, Burns & Allen, Abbott & Costell0), but voices were his first love. And his paycheck. He voiced Porky and Daffy for an amazing 52 years, and Bugs for 49.

Blanc died 10 years ago this month, and he almost didn’t make it that long. He was in a serious car accident, and languished in a coma for two weeks. Then his doctor, in an inspired moment, addressed him as Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig. Blanc responded, and eventually made a full recovery. This is a Wikipedia story, so I’m 87.4 percent sure it’s accurate.

Here’s a great video in which Blanc discusses his career and voices with Johnny Carson (No. 81):