The Jack Paar Open

I realize this isn’t a big problem and I’m just being an old crank, but this sticks in my craw. (Actually, this may be a very tiny problem, but my craw gets irritated easily.) There’s a podcast, which I really like, called The Greatest Generation. No, it’s not about the World War II generation. It’s about Star Trek. It’s a humorous look at each episode of the legendary sci-fi institution starting with Star Trek: The Next Generation. TNG is their favorite of the many Star Trek television series, which is why they started there. The podcast, hosted by Benjamin Harrison and Adam Pranica, had wrapped up the TNG series a while back and are now reviewing each episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. If you are a fan of Star Trek, you should check it out.

The Greatest Generation has developed a whole slew of inside jokes and terms over the years, so if you are new to the podcast it would be a good idea to check out this site to get caught up on everything. Or you could start listening from the beginning. They just started season five of DS9, so you’ll have plenty of listening enjoyment ahead.

Oh, yeah. This craw thing. Ben and Adam frequently use the phrase the Maron Open. The phrase refers to the opening segment of their show in which they talk about or do some activity that is otherwise not very related to the main topic of that particular episode. This is something comedian/podcaster Marc Maron does on his very popular podcast WTF. Hence the phrase Maron Open. And it’s not just The Greatest Gen using the phrase! I’ve heard it on other podcasts.

I, being an old crank, became indignant. “Why these darn kids and their thinking they just invented the wheel! Don’t they know the ‘Maron Open’ is almost as old as the talk show format itself?”

For shame!

Look I haven’t been around forever (and I didn’t write the very first song – 10 points if you get the reference), so I don’t know who started that little talk at the start of a show before getting to the guest or the main topic. But I do know that The Tonight Show’s second host, taking over for original host Steve Allen, Jack Paar was well known for it. I kid you not.

He may not have been the first to do it, but he really did set the template that most late night television talk shows follow to this day. Steve Allen’s Tonight Show was more of a variety show with singers, comedians, and sketches. There may have been some interviews, but that wasn’t the focus of the program as it was with Jack Paar.

Paar was an innovator and pioneer in talk shows. He brought a level of sophistication with intelligent conversation, but still added plenty of laughs to the proceedings. He loved to bring on great storytellers such as the actor Peter Ustinov and Paar was quite the raconteur himself, as in when he would tell an amusing anecdote to open the show. Sound familiar?

He was an emotional, temperamental man who could be unpredictable. That helped make for great ratings, but it also led to him abruptly quitting the show. Not ten minutes into the February 11, 1960 broadcast, Paar announced he was upset with NBC and walked off the set, leaving cohost Hugh Downs to finish the program. (Paar had warned Downs beforehand that he was going to quit.) The indignant host was, however, convinced to come back a month later. His first words upon his return to the show were, “As I was saying before I was interrupted…”

Why did he quit?

“There must be a better way of making a living than this.”

It was over what would be considered today to be the mildest of mild jokes. The joke contained the initials WC which Paar made certain the audience understood meant “water closet”, a euphemism for bathroom. He told the joke to the live audience, but, when the show went on the air later that night, the network had cut it and replaced it with a short news item. NBC thought the joke was in bad taste. Paar was not informed the joke had been cut and became angry when he saw it had been removed. He walked off the show the next day.

What was the joke?

“An English lady is visiting Switzerland. She asks [a Swiss resort manager] about the location of the ‘W.C.’ The [manager], thinking she is referring to the ‘Wayside Chapel’ [as in a church], leaves her a note that read ‘the W.C. is situated nine miles from the room that you will occupy… It is capable of holding about 229 people and it is only open on Sunday and Thursday… It may interest you to know that my daughter was married in the W.C. and it was there that she met her husband… I shall be delighted to reserve the best seat for you, if you wish, where you will be seen by everyone.'” (Source Wikipedia)

Pretty tame, eh?

Well, then, what of the Maron Open? As I said, Marc Maron didn’t invent it. Jack Paar might not have either, but it would make more sense to call it the Paar Open or the Jack Paar Open. (I bet you thought the headline meant this blog was going to be about golf, didn’t you?) As I also said, I have heard other podcasters refer to it as the Maron Open. Or I thought I had.

In preparing this blog, I Googled “Maron Open”. I expected to find a Wikipedia page or an entry in the Urban Dictionary providing the definition I gave above. A definition stating it is a phrase popular among podcasters. But, I didn’t. The only reference was to The Greatest Generation podcast as one of their many inside jokes. It is something exclusive to them. And that’s different than a whole bunch of young podcasters thinking they just invented the wheel. My craw is unclogged.

Though, I swear I thought I heard it on other podcasts. I’ll keep my ear peeled.

Packing Peanuts!

Feel free to comment and share.

Images used under Fair Use.

Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on iTunes.

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