It must be so stressful to be the designated pop culture obituarist at your publication when someone like Johnny Carson dies. Everyone, but everyone is going to run a competing piece. Not only every print publication in English, but now bloggers, too. Pesky never-sleeping bloggers, overcrowding the field. Everyone is going to pull out all the stops for this one. Everyone wants to turn out the single remembrance that will be remembered, that will be the beacon in an undifferentiated sea of “he was the man Americans went to bed with.” How will you make sure your appreciation stands out among the multitude?
Answer: you will try. Really, really hard.
The formula that Carson perfected was beautiful. First came the stand-up routine, in which, as the audience sat at home, he stood erect as a needle, puncturing presidents, public figures, and celebrities. He was the Midwestern needle in a haystack, which no one could find and blunt, who emerged from the haystack every night to lash out at large, impersonal forces and then withdrew as sleep and morning beckoned.
Americans went to bed with a needle. All I can say is, ouch.