The late night shows of today are quite a bit different from those of my generation. First of all, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson was the late night talk show. As in the only late night talk show (I have to admit I can barely remember Steve Allen and Jack Paar but won’t bore anybody with that). Those shows were predominantly made up of dialogue between Johnny Carson and his guests (mainly TV and big screen stars, i.e. “famous people” but, every so often people like zookeeper Jack Hanna would make an appearance with his animals). Occasionally, the format of the program would branch out and, there would be performances of tomfoolery – like Don Rickles and the hot tub. A piece that will live forever is when Native American Ed Ames, who played Mingo, a Cherokee tribesman on the show Daniel Boone, was Johnny’s guest. He illustrated how to throw a tomahawk – at a wooden cut-out of a cowboy. If, somehow, you’ve never seen it, suffice to say that where the tomahawk landed would make Draymond Green proud. (Google it if you haven’t seen it – it’s one of the greatest spontaneous moments of comedy ever televised).
Today, late night TV shows are plentiful. With ratings being the end-all for networks, these shows have morphed into more than just conversations between host and guest. While the opening of each is still the host’s monologue, after that anything goes. Skits set outside the studio are used – some funny, some not so (although that might be the baby boomer in me speaking) as well as other in-studio ideas to entice viewers to tune in. One invention is the competition model, where guest and host compete against each other, or two guests face off.
Last night on Jimmy Kimmel Live! - one of the main three network shows that come on following the late night news – Jimmy had two NBA stars answer questions from the other’s era. The “contestants” were Hall of Famer Walt “Clyde” Frazier, representing “yesteryear” and New Orleans superstar Anthony Davis, repping today’s generation. Kimmel would pose a question from “back in the day” to Davis, then one from from today for Frazier. If one didn’t get the answer, he other had a chance to correct him.
The first (practice) question for Clyde was, “What is the name of Beyonce’s latest single?” No clue.
After the break, a picture of Jimmy Carter was put up and A.D. was asked to tell the audience the name of the former President. Davis just shook his head. Someone who had spent a year in college (not to mention all those years in elementary, junior high and high school) couldn’t name a president who is still alive. I mean, it wasn’t like he was shown a picture of James Buchanan. Yet, it’s extremely doubtful anyone from UK is in any way embarrassed because, come on, A.D. was here only one year and he led the ‘Cats to a national championship. How much could somebody expect out of the young man? Besides, the most important president to Kentucky players is the one they accumulate so many of when they leave campus – Benjamin Franklin. (Uh, yeah, it’s a joke). Frazier not only said who it was but prefaced his remarks by informing the studio and viewing audience that he hailed from the same state as Carter.
Then, Frazier was shown a picture of Jay Z and was asked what the rapper’s last name was. Cleverly, but incorrectly, he said, “Z.” Davis said, “Carter,” and the game was tied. It continued in similar fashion. Frazier didn’t know the ending to “Netflix and ____” while Davis immediately responded with “Chill.” A.D. said the ending to the line, “up your nose with a rubber ____” was “duck.” He was corrected by Clyde who, somewhat surprisingly, knew it was “hose” (that bit of knowledge possibly the result of all the years he spent with Bill Bradley). Frazier did not know the music festival in Indio, CA was Coachella (Davis did), but the results were reversed when the question about Woodstock was presented (Frazier actually said he was there).
Another history question stumped Davis (if he didn’t know who Jimmy Carter was after seeing his picture, how could he have been expected to come up with who was responsible for the New Deal)? His answer “of what” was a hit with the audience and even drew a response from his opponent who, after saying FDR, commented, “He was thinking of his new deal” (which, of course was full of Benjamins). A white and yellow logo was put up on the screen which Frazier thought stood for “ghost” while Davis quickly said, “snapchat.”
The game winner came when the Pelicans’ all-star recognized Bruce Lee but the former Knicks’ great could only guess “turtle” when shown a picture of a green turtle ready for battle. Maybe Anthony Davis wasn’t keen on American presidents but he’d be damned if anybody thought he couldn’t pick out Michelangelo.
All in all, it was a fun segment, although it does make you wonder, are they exposing themselves as fools or are they simply good sports? Admittedly, the only one of the new generation questions I knew was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle because I had a son who grew up in that era (the green guys’ first one). “Contests” like this have some humor but, for my (old) taste buds:
“Give me Ed Ames and the tomahawk anytime.”