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Jack Paar had no singing, dancing or acting talent, but he was blessed with "the gift of gab." That gift was enough to endear him to millions of American television viewers during his tenure as host of The Tonight Show (1957-1962).
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Jack Paar was born on May 1, 1918, in Canton, Ohio. Starting off in radio in the 1940s, he moved on to his first television show, Up to Paar, in 1952. By 1957, Paar was hosting The Tonight Show, which was also marketed as The Jack Paar Show during his time as host. His format of variety skits, interviews, witty conversation and monologues created what is now standard in the genre. Paar left The Tonight Show in 1962. He died in Connecticut in 2004.
"My life seems like one long obstacle course with me as the chief obstacle."
Born in Canton, Ohio, on May 1, 1918, Jack Harold Paar dropped out of high school in the 10th grade to take a job as a radio announcer and DJ. Later, as a comedian in a U.S. Army special services unit, Paar entertained troops during World War II. After the war, he landed roles in a handful of early 1950s films. In 1952, he made his first forays into television, hosting game shows as well as variety programs.
In 1957, Jack Paar replaced Steve Allen to become the second host of NBC's The Tonight Show, which was also marketed as The Jack Paar Show during his time as host. Not as adept at sketch comedy, Paar more often relied on his monologues and discoveries, including Bill Cosby and Bob Newhart, for laughs. His eccentric guest list, including such varied personalities as Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer and actor Peter Ustinov, complemented Paar's eccentric personality, and his format of variety skits, interviews, witty conversation and monologues created what is now standard in the genre.
Notorious for feuding with prominent reporters such as Walter Winchell, as well as with NBC executives, Paar once walked off The Tonight Show just minutes into the program, after the network censored a joke about a "water closet." He returned to the show five weeks later. In 1961, Paar broadcast live from the newly erected Berlin Wall.
Paar left The Tonight Show in 1962, and went on to host a weekly variety show titled The Jack Paar Program. (The first U.S. prime-time footage of the Beatles aired on The Jack Paar Program in 1964.) The show came to a close in 1965, when Paar bought and began managing a television station in Poland Spring, Maine.
In 1975, Paar briefly hosted a show as part of ABC's "Wide World of Entertainment" segment—the last hosting job of his career.
Jack Paar died in Greenwich, Connecticut on January 27, 2004. A memorial in honor of the longtime TV host was held at New York City's Museum of Television & Radio (later renamed the Paley Center for Media) in the spring of 2004.
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Since the early days of television, talk show hosts have been among the most popular personalities in the medium. From TV pioneers like Jack Paar and Johnny Carson to daytime legends like Phil Donahue and Oprah Winfrey to late night talkers like Jon Stewart and Jimmy Kimmel, here is a look at the famous hosts who have talked the talk on TV.
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