"Where did you get it from?"
"In my office. Comedy writers always came in. I bought jokes by the pound," Alan King said.
"What were these specific jokes?"
"A monologue I was going to use on the Tonight Show."
This was last year and we were talking about plagiarism, theft, making it up, any of the flaws in writers that you see heralded
in the daily newspapers at this time.
"Do you remember the monologue?" King was asked.
"No, not the jokes. Not anymore. I remember reading it when he gave it to me. I said to him, 'This is very good. Let me ask
you, are you sure it's your own?' He said to me, 'This is my work. It's what I do. I worked hard on this. I thought it would be
great for you.' So I said, 'All right.' I read it again. I said to him again, 'You're sure you didn't get this somewhere?' He says,
'It's mine. I told you. I wrote it especially for you.'"
"Then what did you do?" I asked King.
"I paid for it!"
"Where were you going to use it?" he was asked.
"On the Tonight Show. Johnny Carson took nights off and I was going to do the show."
Any other joke stealing wasn't going to kill him. Mostly, it was just like an act in Britain. "I'm a big hit in England. Billy Eckstein
told me there was a guy playing in the suburbs who was using everything of mine. One night we went out to see him. The guy
took my act word for word. Fool couldn't even time them right. We were on the floor laughing at him. Then he says, 'As I was
telling my wife, Jeannette ...' That did it. The bum wouldn't even change my wife's name."
Then he said, "That was all right. This other thing was dangerous."
King was talking about his wonderful new monologue at a time when Johnny Carson did the show that Jay Leno does now, the
Tonight Show. Leno is a 15-round fighter. Somebody says he is falling. He comes right back, working like a bricklayer, and he
is on top again.
Johnny Carson was the one fastest man on television we ever saw. He had these people on his show like King. I make him
about as smart as you'll meet. He comes out of the Milton Berle and Henny Youngman class. I always thought that they were
the smartest people I've met in any endeavor of life. They snatch something and turn it around into words so bright they flash
and make people laugh. They take some serious dummy and turn him into what he should be, ludicrous.
All their jokes are smart. There are no dumb jokes. Dumb jokes are not funny. They are the long jokes that politicians and
The Alan King brigade does it in a sentence or two. I still remember walking out of the Carnegie Delicatessen and the late
Henny Youngman waved. "No regards." Then he went back to his coffee.
"So I buy the monologue," King went on yesterday." I pay for it. I read it and start to put it in my mind. I'm going to use it on
the Carson show. Alan King walks out with the band playing and I wave and I have my body moves and then I start with a
good fresh monologue. That's how I see things coming up.
"So I'm home and I watch the 11 o'clock news. I always watch the news. Then here comes the Tonight Show. It is a rerun
from about eight years ago. What's the difference? I watch. Ed McMahon says, 'Here's Johnny!' Out comes Carson. He starts
his monologue. Fast, beautiful.
"He starts with the exact same thing the kid sold me.
"I grabbed my copy and followed him. Every word was the same. There was not one original line. This kid who sold me the
monologue copied Carson word for word. The show is a rerun. How did he get a hold of a rerun and copy it? He figured
nobody would know. Eight years old. Who could remember? Who would watch? He got hit by lightning. They put on the
show with me watching.
"What if I didn't happen to watch Carson and then went on the show with the same monologue? I don't know the time
difference between seeing this rerun and my date to do the show. But it would've been sudden death.
"I'll give you something worse. What if I went on another show with Carson's monologue? Death.
The kid bent me in half. I'm from Williamsburg. What right does a thief have to beat me? "COMMENTARY' All their jokes are
smart. There are no dumb jokes. Dumb jokes are not funny. They are the long jokes that politicians and businessmen tell.'