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And early host of “The Tonight Show,” Jack Paar is often called, “the original talk show host.” The name is not accurate, especially since Steve Allen was the first host of the program but the sentiment is not lost on those who appreciate what Paar contributed to the talk TV genre.

Jack Paar began like many of his peers: on the radio. After years as an announcer, he moved into stand-up comedy and went abroad during World War II to entertain the troops. He worked briefly in films but got more notice when he began filling in for Jack Benny on his radio show, which led to the Tonight Show gig.

He took the late night program into realms unexplored by Steven Allen who preferred the entertainment field for topics and guests. Paar was willing and able to take a more intellectual tack with the show. He interviewed Fidel Castro and Richard Nixon. He broadcast from the building of the Berlin Wall. He brought bright new comedians to the show including Woody Allen and Carol Burnett. He was emotional and unpredictable once angrily walking off in the middle of a show. Paar knew when to be irreverent and when to be charming, developing a special kind of timing that the great talk hosts emulate to this day.

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