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Before I was born my parents went to see Johnny Carson perform in Las Vegas. Carson’s Vegas act, my parents would later inform me approvingly, was nothing like the material he performed for millions of Americans nightly over the source of thirty years on The Tonight Show. This wasn’t just Vegas – it was 1960s Vegas: a sophisticated playground for adults, not the inclusive, family-oriented bastion of “zany” comedy that prevails today.
Carson’s versatility was laudable, notwithstanding the widespread notion that the mere ability to perform R-rated material is disqualifying. My parents, typical of their generation, ate it up: they had no intention of making the four- or five-hour drive through the desert to spend an evening with Johnny Carson only to hear him deliver FCC-approved jokes about the Buffalo blizzard of ’77. (“How cold was it?!”)More