Be My Guest

People who have something to promote—authors, recording artists, actors, show promoters, athletes, and even zookeepers-are expected to be entertaining as well as informative. The funnier they are the more often they're invited back to Johnny's couch.

As a result, they frequently hire freelance humor writers to help them prepare for their media tour, which may take them to a dozen cities in two weeks.

Nurse of diet expert to patient: "Sorry, the doctor is booked up for three months—and that's just the talk shows."


Topical humor subjects are a major problem. Writers always prepare humor material with knowledge of the program's air date. Live shows, like the morning interview programs, are no problem. But roughly 25 percent of Carson's programs are repeated up to a year later. Other talk shows are taped and syndicated so they actually run on a six-week delay. In addition, many syndicated shows run at all hours of the day. Some humor works better when the audience is in the bedroom than it does when they're in the kitchen.

Advise your client to save the funny material for the air. Once Merv Griffin had Olivia de Havilland on his show. They met backstage and she told Griffin a hilarious joke. When they got on camera, he asked her to repeat it. "But I just told you," she said. When he insisted, she did it halfheartedly. It had suddenly become an old joke. That's why Johnny Carson never meets guests before shows.

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