DVD Review: The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: Johnny and Friends with Jerry Seinfeld



There were two great moments in a comic’s career before the early ’90s. First was getting booked on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. This was the only real game on the airwaves as far as young comics were concerned. Every night before you hit the stage at the Chucklehutt in Jasper, Montana, the fantasy was that a Tonight Show comedy scout was in the audience after a day of fly fishing. Of course the reality was that most were discovered performing at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles. Getting booked for Carson would immediately enhance your name on the Comedy club circuit. You’d be getting a prime spot in front of the Brick wall. An M.C. saying, “You saw them on the Tonight Show” was a badge of honor that no comic wanted to pass by. While many people stepped out from behind the curtain and delivered the choice five minutes from their set, there was the second magical moment that all comics dreams of receiving. The moment when the audience is still clapping and Johnny waves the comic to come to his desk and sit down on the couch. Many comics made a bow and headed back to the green room. Johnny waving a comedian over skyrocketed a career. To sit down for a minute while Johnny praised part of your routine was a kingmaking moment. Forget the comedy circuit, a comic was about to start playing a big stage in Las Vegas and talk meetings with network producers for sitcoms based on their characters. When Jerry Seinfeld arrived at the Tonight Show on 1981, he impressed Johnny and received the golden ticket which eventually led to his massive sitcom success. The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: Johnny and Friends with Jerry Seinfeld catches three of his mid-80s performances that established him as a prime comic.

The first episode is from 1985 with Jerry sandwiched between Shelly Winters (Lolita) and an Acapella chorus. This episode was already memorable as Johnny performed “Mr. Rambo’s Neighborhood.” He’s decked out in fake muscle arms and chest like Sly Stallone as Rambo. There’s plenty of gun jokes and the set gets shot up. Jerry gets into how can Tide keeps improving as a laundry detergent. He switches over to bloodstains in the commercials. He pokes fun at Depression era stories and his lack of sad stories to share. How kids never check their pockets. He predicts what could add excitement to space missions. Political mascots get reviewed. Jerry gets summoned to Johnny’s couch where the host praises Jerry’s observational skills. The second show if from 1986 where Jerry shares the spotlight with dragster Shirley Muldowney. She and Johnny end up racing golf carts. Ed McMahon and Tommy Newsome work both end of the drag strip. Jerry’s routine starts with jokes about the wildness of President’s Day. He works this into his memories of getting his first Superman costume for Trick or Treating. Then comes his observations about jawbreakers and their ability to destroy your body. Things wrap up with him pondering touching the thermostat. Johnny brings to the couch to touch on the living room concept. Things get wild when the next guest joins them: It’s Oprah Winfrey. She’s all about her pantyhose. Strange to think how these two would become dominate forces in the ’90s. The final entry is from ’88 with Jerry between Arnold Schwarzenegger and tennis great Andre Agassi. Jerry explains how he ended up horseback riding. This leads to the question of horsepower in the space program. The audience has to be nurtured into laughing at horses being turned into glue. Things get wrapped up with horse trailer nonsense. It’s a full horse set for Jerry. Even on the couch, Johnny gets into the horse jokes. Things get tied up when Jerry makes a Rambo joke.

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: Johnny and Friends with Jerry Seinfeld is a must for fans of Seinfeld. This is how Jerry established a relationship with millions of Americans that would make his show about nothing one of the classic comedies of our time. These are the obersvational comedy bits that set up the episodes. His ability to get the middle American audience from around the country to laugh at horses being turned into glue was proof to TV executives that he could win over an audience not found at Caroline’s in Manhattan. Getting to see complete episodes gives a full context of the time and how Jerry found himself always sitting on Johnny’s couch until NBC gave him a full living room.

The videos is 1.33:1 full frame. The show was shot on standard definition video back in the ’80s so resolution is low. But Jerry’s comedy shines. The audio is Dolby Digital Stereo so you’ll hear the audience laugh on both sides of the studio.

Original Commercials is an option so you can enjoy the true context of the times. There’s quite a bit of companies that are gone and a few that have changed. My favorite includes Fletch from that time we all thought Chevy Chase was funny.

Time Life presents The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: Johnny and Friends with Jerry Seinfeld. Starring: Johnny Carson, Ed McMahon, Jerry Seinfeld and Oprah. Boxset Contents: 3 episodes on 1 DVD. Released: December 27, 2016.

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