January 28, 2004

Did you know that Jack Paar came up with the idea of the sofa and desk furniture arrangement for a TV talk show? Here are a few more things about Jack, who seems to have had a talk show that was much more about great talk than today’s talk shows, from the NYT obituary:
• [U]nknowns who [got] national exposure on his show[:] ... Bill Cosby, Mike Nichols and Elaine May, Carol Burnett, Woody Allen, the Smothers Brothers and Godfrey Cambridge.

• "Everyone thinks Ed Sullivan discovered the Beatles," [Paar] once complained. "That's not true. I had them on before he did. I did it because I thought they were funny, not because I liked the music. I'm a Muzak kind of guy — my home's like living in an elevator."

• There always seemed to be a neurotic edge to Mr. Paar and his pals. [NYT critic John J.] O'Connor once said people watched to see if anyone would have a nervous breakdown on camera. Mr. Downs once explained affectionately, "Jack's not mentally ill; he's a carrier of mental illness." [Regular guest Oscar] Levant, asked what he did for exercise, mumbled, "I stumble and then I fall into a coma."

• "I hate my emotion," Mr. Paar said of all his tearful controversies. "Knock it off, I tell myself, but I just can't help it."
He had a catchphrase, “I kid you not.” I can remember my parents saying that and understanding that it was amusing in a way I couldn’t understand because I was too young to stay up and watch late night TV.

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