What happens when two genius comedians meet and collaborate? Comedic genius. One earned a lifetime supply of awards, from three Primetime Emmy Awards to two Golden Globes, two Academy Awards, and even two British Film Awards. The other is a Television Academy Hall of Fame inductee, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and wrote the book on late night hosting. So, when 1979 saw Johnny Carson interview Sally Field, audiences were in for a unique treat – to say the very least.
Today, Field’s acting credits include dozens of films but she got her big start on television in the comedies Gidget and The Flying Nun. These were fresh in the American cultural consciousness when Carson had 17 years of The Tonight Show under his belt. When Field went onto his show, the two played off of each other throwing barbs and compliments alike – along with a surprising amount of shaving cream – for a truly memorable performance. Revisit this iconic interview here.
A meeting of the minds between Sally Field and Johnny Carson
By the time of this interview, both Field and Carson were well established in their careers and known as entertainment sensations. Carson admits that, prior to that ‘79 interview, the two had not met personally but he did admire her from her The Flying Nun work. He also offered high praise for the “outstanding” job she did in Sybil, for which she won a Primetime Emmy. As for Field, she too admitted to admiring Carson, but she took a very comedic approach to it.
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Field claimed she was given a list of rules for being on The Tonight Show opposite Carson. Most notably, she was warned he was very shy and self-aware, so she definitely should not offer words of praise for his own work on television, should confess “I adore you” or that she thought him “a genius.” He agreed but admitted some positive words would be acceptable; going outside a person’s comfort zone could be liberating. But she knew she should not tell him she thought he was “the sexiest man” on TV. Carson definitely didn’t want to hear anything implying how old he was!
Unabashedly answering the call
But Field continued, playing up the image of a sweet, cute, dainty lady, which, she said, meant she surely couldn’t do the same physical comedy Carson got up to sometimes. Her challenge was accepted. Field bemoaned they could not, for example, get into an exchange of spraying people with shaving cream. So, she demonstrated, Field could cover Carson’s ears and nose with cream and he couldn’t do anything.
Ultimately, Carson got his revenge, returning fire. He was probably motivated by Field saying she “hated” his suits. The audience enjoyed a real treat as the two comedians played off of each other and went right along with what the other was doing. Carson played selective hearing because of the cream over his ears and Field adjusted her sitting position to let Carson retaliate. The two would end up dating a bit but when Field needed a break, she didn’t know how to outright say she wanted to split, and so instead said, “I’m so sorry. I have to go away. They’re putting me in a home.”
Laugh along with everyone else and learn more about Field in the informative interview below!