Tonight Starring Jack Paar aka The Jack Paar Show


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About

Jack Paar is one of television's most intriguing and enigmatic talk show hosts. He served as the host of the Tonight Show from 1957 through 1962 and headed his own NBC variety series from 1962 to 1965. Both series were stamped with Paar's volatile and unpredictable personality and often a haven for witty, literate conversation. Because of several well-received guest appearances on NBC's Tonight, Paar ascended to the permanent host slot on 29 July 1957. For several months before, the late-night series had floundered when original host Steve Allen moved permanently to prime time. Paar was given free rein to restore the show's luster and assembled his own freewheeling staff, including writers Jack Douglas and Paul Keyes, to give the show an extemporaneous quality. The new creative team emphasized the importance of the opening monologue as a vehicle to transmit Paar's singular, often emotional view of the world. Unlike any other host of The Tonight Show, Paar had no talent for sketches, so his writers created a persona through his words, always leaving space for the host to verbally improvise. Called a "bull in his own china shop," he gained notoriety by creating feuds with the show business community, including Ed Sullivan, Walter Winchell, William Paley, and most television critics. To salve his often bruised ego, he surrounded himself with a salon of eccentrics whose ranks included pianist and professional hypochondriac Oscar Levant, the outspoken Elsa Maxwell, the irreverent Alexander King, and British raconteurs Robert Morley, Bea Lillie, and Peter Ustinov. He resurrected the careers of performers on the entertainment fringe, inviting back on a regular basis the folksy Cliff "Charley Weaver" Arquette, music hall veteran Hermione Gingold, French chanteuse Genevieve, and acerbic Hans Conreid. More in keeping with the Tonight ethos, Paar also nurtured young comic talent, and among his discoveries were Bob Newhart, the Smothers Brothers, Dick Gregory, Godfrey Cambridge, and Bill Cosby. Paar also removed the talk show out of the controlled studio and begin to intermingle politics and entertainment. He and author Jim Bishop journeyed to Cuba and prepared a special report, "The Background of the Revolution." Paar's unexplained embrace of Castro was vehemently questioned by Batista supporters and even the United States House of Representatives. Paar also became friendly with the Kennedys and invited Robert Kennedy as chief counsel of the Senate Labor-Management Relations Committee to discuss his investigation of organized crime in the unions. The head of the Teamsters, Jimmy Hoffa, responded with a million dollar lawsuit against Kennedy and Paar, which was eventually thrown out of court. Paar was also the first entertainer to originate a program from the Berlin Wall, which he did less than a month after its construction at the height of Cold War tension. Paar became the most successful presence in late night, expanding his affiliate base from the 46 stations with which he started out to 170. In 1957, the title was changed to The Jack Paar Tonight Show and the next season the show was taped early in the evening instead of broadcast live. Beginning July 1959 Paar broadcast only four nights a week; Friday night became "The Best of Paar," inaugurating a tradition of Tonight reruns. At the height of his fame, he battled NBC censors over a joke about a water closet, a British euphemism for a bathroom. Incensed, he walked out at the beginning of a show, leaving announcer Hugh Downs to finish the program. His walk-off and subsequent disappearance dominated news for five weeks until he returned after an extended stay in Hong Kong. Paar's rollercoaster ride on Tonight continued until 30 March 1962. He retired from late night, having hosted more than 2,000 hours. In September 1962, Paar returned to the variety format and produced a weekly Friday night series, borrowing the most successful elements of his talk show. Each telecast was ignited by a monologue and the core of each program was an in-depth conversation with some of Hollywood's most voluble personalities, including Judy Garland, Tallulah Bankhead, Richard Burton, and Jonathan Winters. Paar also spiced the series with home movies of his family trips, with wife Miriam and daughter Randy also becoming celebrities. Paar continued to make headlines with newsworthy segments. He ventured into Gabon, Africa to interview Nobel Prize recipient Dr. Albert Schweitzer. Richard Nixon made his first public appearance after his defeat in the gubernatorial race in California and entertained Paar's audience with a piano solo. He also presented the first footage of the Beatles in prime time, a performance he openly derided as the downfall of British civilization. He retired from the network grind in 1965 to manage a television station in Maine. In March 1975, Paar was persuaded to return to late night to compete against the inheritor of the Tonight mantle, Johnny Carson. This time he was reduced to one week every month, part of the ABC Wide World of Entertainment. The format that he had fostered had changed considerably and Paar retired five months later, this time for good. Paar was an integral part of a new generation of television personalities. Unlike an older generation trained in vaudeville and Broadway, Paar and such 1950s contemporaries as Garry Moore, Arthur Godfrey, and Dave Garroway had no specific show business talents. They could neither act, sing, nor dance. They were products of a intimate electronic technology that allowed for a personalized connection with the audience. As a talk show and variety host, Paar created a complex, unpredictable character, whose whims and tantrums created national tremors. -Ron Simon

Highlights
Hugh Downs on Jack Paar's famous walk out on The Tonight Show on February 11, 1960
08:43
Carol Burnett on appearing on The Jack Paar Tonight Show singing "I Made a Fool of Myself over John Foster Dulles", and Dulles' response to the song on Meet the Press
02:50
Florence Henderson on becoming a regular on Jack Paar's Tonight Show
02:05
Garry Marshall on writing for Jack Paar's Tonight show (aka The Jack Paar Show)
02:07
Who talked about this show

Steve Allen

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Steve Allen on his thoughts on colleagues through the years - Jack Paar, and how Paar "invented the couch" on The Tonight Show
00:36

Al Borden

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Al Borden on working with Steve Allen and Jack Paar
02:30

Carol Burnett

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Carol Burnett on appearing on The Jack Paar Tonight Show singing "I Made a Fool of Myself over John Foster Dulles", and Dulles' response to the song on Meet the Press
02:50

George Carlin

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George Carlin on his first appearance on The Tonight Show in 1960, and on the format of that show

Diahann Carroll

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Diahann Carroll on appearing on Jack Paar's Tonight show
04:24

Dick Cavett

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Dick Cavett on being a huge fan of The Jack Paar Show aka The Tonight Show and eventually writing for Paar
04:05
Dick Cavett on his various roles, including interviewing guests, on The Jack Paar Show aka The Tonight Show
06:02
Dick Cavett on writing the intro for Jayne Mansfield's appearance on The Jack Paar Show
01:33

Dick Gregory with Emerson College

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Dick Gregory on how he came to appear on Tonight Starring Jack Paar
08:47

Joan Ganz Cooney

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Joan Ganz Cooney on Pat Weaver's creation of and advertising structure on The Tonight Show and Today
01:16

Phyllis Diller

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Phyllis Diller on her first appearance on The Tonight Show; on Jack Paar
06:18

Hugh Downs

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Hugh Downs on Jack Paar's famous walk out on The Tonight Show on February 11, 1960
08:43
Hugh Downs on his role on The Tonight Show with Jack Paar
05:46
Hugh Downs on Jack Paar's comeback after his famous walk out on The Tonight Show on February 11, 1960
01:52
Hugh Downs on memorable guests on The Tonight Show while he was announcer
03:03
Hugh Downs on politicians appearing on The Tonight Show
05:18
Hugh Downs on racial tensions and booking diverse guests on The Tonight Show
02:30
Hugh Downs on The Tonight Show moving from live to taped, and the role of advertisers
02:20

Pat Harrington, Jr. with Emerson College

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Pat Harrington, Jr. on getting into show business with help from Jonathan Winters, and on appearing on Tonight Starring Jack Paar
07:19

Florence Henderson

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Florence Henderson on becoming a regular on Jack Paar's Tonight Show
02:05
Florence Henderson on becoming the first female guest host on The T onight Show
01:00
Florence Henderson on her first appearances on The Tonight Show aka The Jack Paar Show
04:33
Florence Henderson on Jack Paar walking off The Tonight Show
01:40
Florence Henderson on working with Hugh Downs on Jack Paar's Tonight Show
01:57
Florence Henderson on serving as guest host on The T onight Show
02:54

Stewart MacGregory

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Stewart MacGregory on being unit manager on The Tonight Show with Jack Paar
01:24
Stewart MacGregory on the infamous "water closet incident" from The Tonight Show with Jack Paar
04:31

Garry Marshall

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Garry Marshall on writing for Jack Paar's Tonight show (aka The Jack Paar Show)
02:07

Garry Simpson

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Garry Simpson on changing the look of the original Tonight Show
01:41

Dick Smothers

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Tom and Dick Smothers on their early TV appearances
02:46

Tom Smothers

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Tom and Dick Smothers on their early TV appearances
02:46

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