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Billy Crystal on 'Tonight Show' recalls Robin Williams

Billy Crystal, left, with Robin Williams prior to

(Credit: AP / Alex Brandon)

Billy Crystal -- who gave a reasonably perfect tribute to his friend Robin Wiliams during the 66th Annual Primetime Emmys telecast -- spoke Thursday to Jimmy Fallon during "The Tonight Show" about his own feelings during and before the speech.

Among them: "I was afraid I wasn't going to get through it ..." In this clip, he and Fallon share memories of a bus trip to Washington, and Williams' comment to him during a speech by a former presidential candidate. (It's all very funny, but some of the language here is a little blue -- a warning to those who might be offended.) Readers on mobile devices can find the clip here:

Barbra Streisand, Jimmy Fallon sing medley duet on 'Tonight Show'

Barbra Streisand and Jimmy Fallon sing a duet

(Credit: NBC / Douglas Gorenstein)

After a 50 year absence -- or specifically, 51 year absence -- from "The Tonight Show," Barbra Streisand returned Monday night in a way that would only be logical for the current host, Jimmy Fallon: to sing a medley duet with him.

And it worked for the most part.

The interview itself? Both disappointing and fascinating. Fascinating, as a unique thing in an of itself, which is to say:...

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Barbra Streisand on 'Tonight Show' Monday

Barbra Streisand is a Brooklyn native. (March 7,

(Credit: Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Barbra Streisand will conduct her first interview on "The Tonight Show" in 51 years -- that's right, 51 -- on Monday, NBC said Thursday.

The entire edition of "Tonight" with Jimmy Fallon will be devoted to Streisand, who last appeared on the show on March 3, 1963. She is also promoting her new album, "Partners," which arrives on Tuesday. On the album, she performs duets with a wide range of artists, including Billy Joel, Blake Shelton and Stevie Wonder.

Streisand is hardly averse to talk shows (she was on "Today" earlier this year). She has made rare, and extremely brief, appearances on other late-night shows, too -- including a cameo on "Saturday Night Live" in 1992, and "Late Show with David Letterman" in 1994.

She also appeared on a 1993 New Year's Eve edition of "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," which commemorated her first paid concert in 22 years, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. She was not interviewed on that particular edition, however.

So what's kept Streisand away from the "Tonight" couch for more than half a century?

"There is no reason," Ken Sunshine, her longtime spokesman, said Thursday. "She does precious little media to promote her projects," adding "she hasn't done much print, hasn't done TV overall, but when she does, it's pretty special. As I've said before, less is more has worked really well. But Monday is exciting because of how long it's been."

Was Johnny Carson right, or was Joan Rivers right? Let's settle this!

Joan Rivers and host Johnny Carson during "The

(Credit: AP)

Let's settle this fight once and for all, shall we? Who was right, or wrong: Joan Rivers or Johnny Carson? It's the solution — if we somehow achieve it right here in this modest little space — to the most famous spat in late-night TV history.

Rivers, the stand-in host for “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,” goes to Fox to launch a late-night show there, in 1986.

Johnny finds out late in the process — very late. He's furious. Never speaks to Joan again ... She is cast into the wilderness after the Fox show implodes in 1987. Never again to appear on Johnny (or Jay's) “Tonight,” and forced to reinvent herself over and over and over.

PHOTOS: Celebs honor Rivers at funeral | Classic Rivers pictures
SOCIAL: Celeb, fan reactions
MORE: Video of Rivers' great TV moments | Rivers cartoons
OPINION: Rivers wasn't PC, and that's what we need

She is bitter about it essentially, well, forever.

Carson — as best I can tell — never spoke of it again. (He left no memoir and Bill Zehme's biography is still in the works.)

So who was right? Who was wrong? Come on kids, we can do this — at the very least, as our final tribute to the great and enduringly funny comedian who died Thursday at the age of 81.

First the facts. Fox, launched then by maverick Barry Diller, needed to start with a bang, but a small bang: Not a full slate of programs, but just one, on one of the key parts of the entire day. Succeed there — opposite Carson — and you can sell the rest of the network to the still-unborn network, a collection of “independent” stations and Fox-owned ones that were still very wary of the crazy notion that another network could actually succeed.

Next, the landscape: In 1986, there were three networks. Three. Not four. There were a couple dozen cable networks, of course, but the idea of “cable” still remained wedded to some notion of pole-climbing mom-and-pop operations that knew how to string wire, but had no idea how to mount competition to the major networks. (It was a bias and wrong, of course — as Ted Turner and others were proving.)

But just three, and at the top of that triumvirate, one man. Johnny Carson. He was a legend in his own lifetime — television's greatest star, period.

No one — not Walter Cronkite or Lucille Ball, or pick your iconic name — was in his firmament. Carson commanded the attention of the nation, defined modern humor for the masses, established a way of speaking about politics and pop culture and even (when he was of a mind to) high culture. ABC had once tried to shake his hegemony with Dick Cavett. Nice try.

CBS didn't even bother.(As the estimable Joe Adalian of New York's "Vulture" points out, not quite! "The Pat Sajak Show.")

Next, Joan. Indisputably a dazzling talent upon whom Johnny had conferred his own special blessing — as host in his absence. She appeared over the years 72 times. He seemed to adore her, but, perhaps more to the point, seemed to trust her as well. Carson, in a long-fraught relationship with NBC, had sought more time off, but you just don't take time off in late night. Letterman doesn't. Jay didn't. The perils are enormous, foremost: What if the audience starts to love the fill-in more than they love the regular host?

Joan — hot, abrasive, funny, “urban" — did not appear to pose a threat at all. Johnny — cool, controlled, nonabrasive, unthreatening and absolutely everyone's idea of the what a late-night host should be — was the exact opposite. They complemented one another without actually subverting one another.

Want a different flavor some nights? There was Joan ... but don't worry, Johnny would be back soon.

Fox — or rather Diller — did what Diller did best back in those days: He ran the table. He figured out who was holding what cards, and played his own. He also quickly knew that contractually NBC had yet to nail down Rivers, knew that she was not on its short list of Carson replacements, knew she would never be on its short list of Carson replacements.

And he made his move. Joan to late night.

This would accomplish a few things. First, get press. An enormous amount.

Second, it would break up the Carson “team.” She was a major part of “Tonight.” Johnny would have to replace that part.

Third, it would convince those affiliates that it had real skin in the game.

But, stealth was essential. No one could learn of the deal. No one could announce it,of course, until much, much later. Rivers — not one to remain silent — had to break character. She had to remain silent.

Why the stealth? Partly because an announcement would force NBC to the bargaining table: Joan would get her deal there (money!) and Johnny's team would remain in place.

There may have been something else going on then, too: Diller and Rupert Murdoch were going after a vital NBC artery. If this was to be war (and it was), best to get your troops in order first.

There was another factor in all this: Edgar Rosenberg, Joan's husband and manager. After all these years, it's difficult to parse the exact nature of this union, but it was complicated: He was to be the producer on this new show, and he handled negotiations with Diller and Fox. It was highly unusual — a husband in charge of the terms and ultimately the show, too. Diller would come to loathe Rosenberg, who was intensely controlling on the “The Late Show with Joan Rivers.” He wanted the control.

Rosenberg, according to some later accounts — or one in particular, Henry Bushkin's — was directly responsible for the rift between Johnny and Joan. Bushkin, Carson's longtime lawyer who also had a falling out with Johnny, wrote in his own memoir that Rosenberg had lied to her about trying to reach out to Carson before the Fox show was announced.

Per Bushkin, Rosenberg — who was doubling as Rivers' executive producer at Fox — had said he had tried repeatedly to call the lawyer, while Bushkin insists that no calls had ever come in.

He writes: “To me, it's entirely plausible Edgar feared that if Johnny talked to Joan and offered her an inducement in any way — a free oil change at Jiffy Lube, say — she would have rejected Fox and stayed with 'The Tonight Show.'"

Bushkin insists Carson would have not stood in her way. Rosenberg committed suicide late in 1987, some months after the cancellation of “Late Show.”

OK, those are the basics. So let's settle this: Who was wrong?

First, should Joan have called Johnny long before the announcement, even at the point Diller first approached her?

Well, that's complicated, but upon reflection — mine, not hers — the answer is yes.

Trust is important. Johnny trusted Joan. Presumably she trusted Johnny. He may well have given his blessing.

Retribution? That could have happened as well, but not to the degree that it would after many months of Rivers still appearing on his show, as if nothing had happened.

And remember one other thing: Carson prized loyalty. He prized it greatly, even when he no longer had much use for those who demonstrated their tireless loyalty (Fred de Cordova, as an example).

And one more thing: Rivers wasn't just taking “another job.” She was going straight for his jugular. She was attacking his base, and his bastion. For all he knew, for all NBC knew, she would take viewers from “Tonight.”

She would certainly take guests. Fox was out to hurt Carson, and by association, Joan was out to hurt Johnny.

He had trusted her. She had betrayed his trust.

She finally called him the day before the announcement — which was the biggest open secret in television, anyway. He hung up on her.

Now, Joan. I'm going to give this over to Joan. Here's what she wrote about the battle in a Hollywood Reporter piece a few years ago:

“I was brought up seven times to the Carson show — interviewed and auditioned seven times by seven different people, and they rejected me, each time, over a period of three years. Then Bill Cosby was filling in, and the comedian that night bombed. Bill said to the booking producer, Shelly Schultz: “Joan Rivers couldn’t be any worse than this guy. Why don’t you use her?”

And that’s when they put me on the show. But they didn’t bring me on as a stand-up comic. They brought me on as a funny girl writer. I’m the only stand-up that never did a stand-up routine on the Carson show.

I adored Johnny. In the ’70s, I did opening monologues, I was hosting. The turning point was when I left the show. Everybody left the show to go to do their own shows. Bill Cosby. David Brenner. George Carlin. Everybody. I stuck around for 18 years. And they finally offered me my own late-night show.

The first person I called was Johnny, and he hung up on me — and never, ever spoke to me again. And then denied that I called him. I couldn’t figure it out. I would see him in a restaurant and go over and say hello. He wouldn’t talk to me.

I kept saying, “I don’t understand, why is he mad?” He was not angry at anybody else. I think he really felt because I was a woman that I just was his. That I wouldn’t leave him. I know this sounds very warped. But I don’t understand otherwise what was going on. For years, I thought that maybe he liked me better than the others. But I think it was a question of, “I found you, and you’re my property.” He didn’t like that as a woman, I went up against him.”

Finally, we come to the wrap: Who was right? Who was wrong?

Joan was wrong. She should have consulted with Carson, should have reached out early in the process, should have listened to what he had to say, and should have taken that under advisement. She should not have done what Diller told her to do, or Rosenberg. She should have listened to her own heart — what was right, what was wrong, what was fair.

She should have read that table a little better. She should have seen she was being manipulated. She started from a negative position at Fox as a result — at war with Carson, NBC and many, many handlers in Hollywood who would decline to allow their clients to go on the new “Late Show,” for fear of antagonizing him.

That's a lot of “shoulds,” and admittedly some of them debatable. Hindsight is easy, no?

But this final point: Johnny was ultimately wrong, too.

He should have seen that NBC — as it had with him — was dragging its feet on her, treating her unfairly, not giving her some sense of the future. He should have known there were others out there who would come after her — after all, he had created a big star. He should have offered her some sense of clarity about what he might ultimately do and how that might (ultimately) affect her. He should have also known NBC had no intention of handing over “The Tonight Show” to a woman.

Foremost, he should have forgiven her. Bygones really should be bygones. She really had been a valuable part of “Tonight.” She should have been accorded the respect valued stars deserve.

So, in the end, the day after Joan River's death, maybe we finally have our answer. They were both wrong.

Jimmy Fallon's 'Tonight' turns 100

Jimmy Fallon was spotted shopping with 1-year-old daughter

(Credit: Getty Images / Slaven Vlasic)

Jimmy Fallon turned one hundred Monday night. (Congrats, Jimmy: Not easy. Even with vitamins.)

One hundred episodes of "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon." Otherwise known as one hundred chances to make NBC really regret one of the most momentous decisions in the network's long history. Or one hundred chances to prove NBC right ... over and over and over again.

The answer lies behind...

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Stephen Colbert keeping 'Late Show' in New York: Critic's analysis

Stephen Colbert, right, who will be staying in

(Credit: Comedy Central)

That Stephen Colbert would choose to keep "Late Show" in New York after succeeding David Letterman as host next year was perhaps not a foregone conclusion -- crazier things have happened, after all -- but it was as close to "foregone" as the word could possibly imply.

Colbert did not agree to undertake the enormous challenge of replacing a legend by uprooting staff and friends and relocating them 3,000 miles from family, hearth and home. A move to CBS' Television City -- which of course has a world-class facility for a late night talk show and has expanded the space for "The Late Late Show" too -- would have almost certainly meant losing key personnel -- possibly even the very people who have made "The Colbert Report" such a huge success.

No: He was going to stay in New York, and he was going to stay at the Sullivan, which is possibly the single most beautiful talk show studio on all of television. (Even better: It's haunted. Did you know that? Another post, another day.)  

Nevertheless, as foregone conclusions go, this is a very happy one. Not only will Colbert extend a tradition -- honestly the only late night tradition CBS has ever really had -- but it extends the tradition in the very city where late night TV was born, and where "The Tonight Show" is already proving, along with its host, that this really is the best place on the planet to mount a late night talk show. 

Los Angeles is fine -- I love L.A. (me AND Randy Newman). But it's just ... different, and it's not the sort of "different" that works well with a personality and style such as Colbert's: arch, intellectual and high velocity. His style was honed here, and here it must stay.   

Certainly this is a nice score for the city: Two hundred jobs will be saved, and while CBS did not specify how many of Dave's "Late Show" veterans will migrate over to Steven's "Late Show," the fervent hope is that many will. Dave's crew is excellent and understands the exigencies of mounting a late night show, night after night after night. Many are indispensable.   

And this is good for the New York production community overall. While average New Yorkers may have conflicted feelings about TV or movie production in New York every time they have to jump out of the way of a dolly or are nearly cold-cocked by a boom mic -- or are just sick and tired of having traffic backed up every time some chase scene for some cop procedural just has to shut down Madison Avenue between 23rd and 24th ... it's still all good. More jobs, more people in work, more everything.

Check out these very stats from the CBS news release announcing the deal with Gov. Andrew Cuomo: During calendar year 2013, applications for 181 film productions were submitted and included 124 films, 31 television programs, 25 pilots and one “relocated” television show. The impact of these projects includes: Generating a direct spend of $2.09 billion in NYS; Collecting a projected $466 million in credits; Hiring an estimated 126,301 actors and crew for the 181 projects submitted.

Looking at it all this way, "Late Show" -- which began here more than 20 years ago -- is the gift that just keeps on giving.

Chris Christie dances (sort of) with Jimmy Fallon on 'Tonight Show'

Host Jimmy Fallon, left, and NJ Governor Chris

(Credit: The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon via YouTube)

One must do what one must do to leave the biggest scandal of one's administration behind, as one looks forward to 2016, and what one governor of the state of New Jersey, Chris Christie, did Thursday night was dance on "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon."

No: It was NOT as painful as you might reasonably imagine; actually, it was even amusing. In this segment, Jimmy Fallon and Chrisite do the "evolution of dad dancing" (and as many dads will attest, they got this almost exactly right).

What will pundits have to say about Christie's latest moves? That at least, the very least, it briefly removed the association of those threee letters -- "G," "W," and "B" -- from his name. And all it took was a dance-off with Fallon to do so.

Long-term effects? Three more letters: "TBD."

Will Dave Chappelle return to TV?

Dave Chappelle dropped by the ?Late Show? on

"Why did Dave Chappelle leave?"

Aren't you sick of that question, too? (Chappelle is, I would imagine.) It's one of those evergreen queries permanently embedded in the Internet hivemind -- and if you don't believe me, type in "why did Dave ..." and let Google complete the question for you.

It's obnoxious, tiresome, a reflection on our world's fixation on the trivial and the over-and-done-with....

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Robinson Cano on 'Tonight Show'

Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano looks on

(Credit: Getty Images / Mike Ehrmann)

Sure, sure, Yankee fans love Robinson Cano., They also hate Robinson Cano. This is apparently the same sort of ambivalence that Red Sox fans have about Jacoby Ellsbury. Except, the Cano emotional conflict is even deeper, more....conflict-y.. To that end, "Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon" last night attempted to calm the ragged feelings of abandoned fans...




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Brian Williams raps 'Gin and Juice' on 'Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon'

Brian Williams, a rappin', rhymin' anchorman.

(Credit: AP / Evan Agostini)

"Gin and Juice." Brian Williams. NBC News. Hip-hop.

Words, ideas, even a collective visual package that doesn't quite fit. But check it out, yo: a rappin', rhymin' anchorman on Monday night's "Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," when Williams made his first appearance on this new edition of the classic, preceded by another clever fast-cut of countless Williams sound bites that somehow, miraculously, are all merged into one two-minute (or so) not-bad-at-all version of the old Snoop Dogg song. Williams -- who really has no hand in any of this -- was "rap"-sodized by Fallon on "Late Night," too.

I suspect this will go viral, if it has not already.

Warning: Language may be offensive to some.

(App users, watch the video here:

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