Byline: Bill Maher
Why sitting on Carson's couch was every comic's dream.
Aug. 31, 1982, is one of those dates that is seared into my head, like a personal 1066 or 1776. That was my first appearance on The Tonight Show, which was the gateway to a career in my chosen field, stand-up comedy. It was the baccalaureate of stand-up, a test you took early on that would decide the rest of your life. If you did well, you'd get invited back and you might be on to a career. If you didn't, it was pretty much over. You might do other shows, but the goal was always to do other shows in order to get The Tonight Show, and you'd blown that. One thing I loved about Johnny Carson and I try to emulate at every turn: he was ruthless.
He was ruthless in the service of giving the absolute best product possible to the audience--and that means cutting people off. Sometimes (rarely) in …