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Watch The Debuts Of 8 Legendary Stand Up Comedians On The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson

September 14, 2011

It’s easy to forget that every successful comedian’s act and career is always a work in progress and rarely is what you see from them now the same thing you saw them from them when they first launched their career.

But thanks to the magic of YouTube, it’s now easy to look back and study what many legendary comedians were doing in the early days of their career. So, I thought I’d compile some video examples of that in this post to inspire and educate you.

Below you’ll find the debut appearance on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson of 8 stand up comedians who would go on to become some of the most successful comics of all time.

Andy Kaufman – 1977

Jay Leno – 1977

Jerry Seinfeld – 1981

Garry Shandling – 1981

Eddie Murphy – 1982

Steven Wright – 1982

Jim Carrey – 1983

Ellen Degeneres – 1986

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

JoAnn Roselli September 14, 2011 at 10:32 am

Awesome to watch! Thanks for posting!!


Dan Licoppe September 14, 2011 at 12:01 pm

These clips are great! So cool to see where they started out and compare it to how they developed their talents over the years. I saw Seinfeld perform last week and it’s amazing how his act and stage presence has evolved over the years. Even a great comic like him can get even better with practice and hard work. I loved the Eddie Murphy clip – man, he crushed it! Thanks for posting.


Wardrick September 19, 2011 at 1:56 pm

Very cool to watch.

It’s a shame that doing TV spots like this does not have the resonance it used to have. First of all, it’s harder to GET such a spot, especially since all the talk shows only have comedians on from time to time. But, secondly, we’ve screwed up the order in which things are supposed to go.

In the 80s (and 90s), it was all about building a reputation as a comedian in clubs. After you did, TV came calling and you got your spot on a talk show. That only increased your fan base, since–in the 70s and 80s–talk shows like “The Tonight Show” were watched by tens of millions.

Now? “The Tonight Show” is #1…and watched by 3 million people per night. 1 million in the key demo. That’s significantly smaller than the 30 million per night that watched it in 1980.

And we’ve reversed the game. Used to be you were a comic who then got on TV. Now you work like crazy to get on TV. And THEN, after you are, you start getting work in clubs. It made more sense when it was the other way around.


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