A quarter of a century ago, the last real King of Late Night retired. His preferred successor, David Letterman, crashed and burned in a mess of predatory behavior towards interns and bitterness. NBC's chosen successor, Jay Leno, was good for little more than making sure Americans got their Recommended Daily Allowance of smarm and then some. None of the people who would now be on my television after 10:30 -- if I bothered to turn it on then -- are worth the movement of my finger on the remote.
Aaron Goldstein, writing at National Review, muses on Johnny Carson's manner of handling political humor. Carson made plenty of fun of politicians -- they are, after all, worthy of mockery in so many ways -- but his was an equal-opportunity snicker. He made fun of whoever was in the White House because that person was in the White House. He made fun of politicians who said or did dumb things because they did dumb things that could be made fun of. He opened his monologue on the Monday of his last week on the air by thanking Dan Quayle for making sure he'd have enough material for that last week by delivering the infamous "Murphy Brown speech."
But he viewed his platform as a place to tell jokes, not to try to bend things to his own political will. Carson's nephew, interviewed in the Goldstein article, says that Carson even eased up on the Richard Nixon jokes when told they were causing the 37th president to drink more heavily.
Would Carson have made fun of President Trump? Of course! He made fun of Private Citizen Trump when the self-proclaimed artist of the deal kept having to declare bankruptcy and decided that marriage was less of a commitment and more of a "Spin the Bottle" game. He would have made fun of Trump tweeting and giving seventeen different stories about the same event and not filling government posts and a host of other things that the 45th President is screwing up. But he also would have made fun of former President Obama, and former President Bush and former President Clinton and Al Gore and Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and Vladimir Putin and...you get the idea.
Nobody would have ever called Carson "woke." But he didn't have to be. He was good -- at a level that the likes of Stevie Colbert and his oral sex jokes are unlikely to achieve. Or understand.