BootLeg Betty

BetteBack August 3, 1974: “Tonight Show,” stepping stone or launching pad for new talent

Port Arthur News
August 3, 1974

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“When I did the Tonight Showâ last December 6. it was the greatest thing that ever happened to me It made me glad I decided to become a comic.”

This is how Freddie Prinze looks back on the first of five appearances on NBC television network s “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”

F o r the “Tonight Show .” Freddie was a new comedian For Freddie, it became a stepping stone to his own series, “Chico and the Man.” which
co -stars Jack Albertson and premieres this fall on NBC-TV.

Now in its 12th year, the Tonight Show” Starring Johnny Carson” has been the launching pad. or high point, of many careers.

Says Freddie: “When I do the show and hear Johnny’s very distinguishable laugh, it’s an ego trip for me. I know I’m making it. It’s great to hear the audience laughing, but when Carson joins in too. then I know I’m going over. I think Johnny is the only one in TV in the past years to showcase young talent. H e’s the best, and he knows how it is to get started Few performers on the show get to sit on the panel their first time out. but I did It’s like talking to a friend in your own living room. If it wasn’t for the entire staff, Johnny, producer Fred de Cordova and director Bobby Quinn. I wouldn’t be in a series today.”

Introducing new ta le n t o r helping others with a needed push has been synonymous with Carson and the “Tonight Show.”

Since McLean Stevenson, a sta r of TV’s “M-A-S-H,” was first on, he has returned more than 14 times and has headlined in Las Vegas McLean confides that he gets more mail from his “Tonight” performances than from his TV series.

D avid Brenner has made more than 20 appearances on the “Tonight Show” and credits the success of his young career to performing on the program He now stars in Las Vegas and has made many concert tours.

Although it is difficult to single out the exact moment of Don Rickles’s big breakthrough. Rickies, him­ self, believes it really began on the night of Oct 7, 1965. during his first appearance with Carson.

Until that night. Don had been considered “too hot to handle” by TV variety-show producers and his television appearances had been limited to acting roles in situation comedies and dramatic shows.

Recently, Joan Rivers was asked if she still credits Carson with starting her career. “Everything started then ,” said Joan When I met Johnny it was all over. H e’s the one I’d put my hand in the fire for.”

Along the line there have been many more, such as Flip Wilson, Bette Midler and. recently 10-year-old singer Lena Zavaroni. New comedian Kelly Monteith has also appeared on the “Tonight Show,” continuing the show’s policy of giving new talent the opportunity to be properly showcased.

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