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When Groucho Marx hosted “The Tonight Show”


After Jack Paar left and before Johnny Carson replaced him, “The Tonight Show” had a fleet of guest hosts, including Groucho Marx, who brought on Dick Cavett as one of his writers. “I wondered if he would use anything I wrote,” said Cavett of that time.


(audience laughing) - Paar was certainly one of the strangest, oddest, neurotic, brilliant comic minds of anybody I've ever worked with.

I adored him.

I don't think I ever missed one of the late night 'Jack Paar Tonight' shows.

Groucho had been on it numerous times, and I made a point of seeing them all.

Jack's neurosis would strike surprisingly sometimes, and one night when Groucho was on, backstage, Jack said, 'Oh God, Groucho Marx again.

You know, he just, he pushes it all the time and he'll say, 'Hello, Paar, are you above par or below par?'

And I, 'Oh God.'' - You didn't get paid once on 'The Jack Paar Show.'

I remember you coming on and exacting money from him- - That's true. - On a live show.

- That was extortion, really, because I had flopped that night, but I still thought I should get paid.

(host and audience laugh) The mere fact that you are not a sensation every time you appear has nothing to do with the shoddy sum that you're supposed to get.

(audience laughs) - When Jack Paar left 'The Tonight Show,' it caused great turmoil in the country.

He had such devoted fans.

The network was desperate, because Johnny couldn't join it until several months later because of some other contracting.

Didn't know what to do.

Somebody said, 'How about a stock company of hosts?'

So we'll get everybody who we think could possibly host 'The Tonight Show.'

I entered a minority that I was glad to be part of.

I became the Groucho Marx writer for a week.

(jazzy music) - [Announcer] It's 'The Tonight Show' from New York with guest star host, Groucho Marx.

- You took your work down to the star's office and laid it on his desk.

Hoped he didn't read anything that he could cringe at while you were still in the office.

- [Announcer] And now, here's the star of our show, Groucho Marx.

(audience applauds) - I hesitantly laid my stuff in front of Groucho and left.

And in Groucho's monologue that night, I wondered if he would use anything I wrote.

(audience applauding and whistling) - [Groucho] You notice the only ones who are applauding are the crew.

(audience laughing) (jaunty fiddle music)


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