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 Censorship & Scandals
Jack PaarJack Paar's Water Closet Joke - One of the early classic moments in television censorship occurred when late night talk show host Jack Paar walked off his NBC program after the network censors nixed a somewhat randy (for the times) bathroom joke. The joke was based on the misinterpretation of the initials W.C. --an English lady thinking it was a "water closet" and the Swiss schoolmaster thinking she meant "Wayside Chapel." The NBC censors thought the joke was dirty and cut it from the February 10, 1960 broadcast without consulting with Paar. When Paar discovered that his four-minute story had been cut, he later walked off in the middle of the live show. As he said "I've been up thirty hours without an ounce of sleep wrestling with my conscience all day. I've made a decision about what I'm going to do. I'm leaving THE TONIGHT SHOW. There must be a better way to make a living than this, a way of entertaining people without being constantly involved in some form of controversy. I love NBC, and they've been wonderful to me. But they let me down." The joke that caused all of the controversy is printed below:

"An English lady, while visiting Switzerland, was looking for a room, and she asked the schoolmaster if he could recommend any to her. He took her to see several rooms, and when everything was settled, the lady returned to her home to make the final preparations to move. When she arrived home, the thought suddenly occurred to her that she had not seen a "W.C." [water closet, a euphemism for bathroom] around the place. So she immediately wrote a note to the schoolmaster asking him if there were a "W.C." around. The schoolmaster was a very poor student of English, so he asked the parish priest if he could help in the matter. Together they tired to discover the meaning of the letters "W.C.," and the only solution they could find for the letters was letters was a Wayside Chapel. The schoolmaster then wrote to the English lady the following note:

Dear Madam:

I take great pleasure in informing you that the W.C. is situated nine miles from the house you occupy, in the center of a beautiful grove of pine trees surrounded by lovely grounds. It is capable of holding 229 people and it is open on Sunday and Thursday only. As there are a great number of people and they are expected during the summer months, I would suggest that you come early: although there is plenty of standing room as a rule. You will no doubt be glad to hear that a good number of people bring their lunch and make a day of it. While others who can afford to go by car arrive just in time. I would especially recommend that your ladyship go on Thursday when there is a musical accompaniment. 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 can remember the rush there was for seats. There were ten people to a seat ordinarily occupied by one. It was wonderful to see the expression on their faces. The newest attraction is a bell donated by a wealthy resident of the district. It rings every time a person enters. A bazaar is to be held to provide plush seats for all the people, since they feel it is a long felt need. My wife is rather delicate, so she can't attend regularly. I shall be delighted to reserve the best seat for you if you wish, where you will be seen by all. For the children, there is a special time and place so that they will not disturb the elders. Hoping to have been of service to you, I remain,

Sincerely,

The Schoolmaster."

Prompted by a newspaper column written by John Crosby entitled "The Fall of Jack Paar" that reported that Jack Paar was washed up on television, Paar returned to the show on March 7th, strolled onstage, struck a pose, and looked right into the camera. "As I was saying," he said "before I was interrupted. Of course, the (audience erupted in applause. He continued, "When I walked off, I said there must be a better way of making a living. Well I've looked and there isn't. Be it ever so humble, there is no place like Radio City. Leaving the show was a childish and perhaps emotional thing. I have been guilty of such action in the past and will perhaps be again. I'm totally unable to hide what I feel. It is not an asset in show business. But I shall do the best I can to amuse and entertain you and let other people speak freely, as I have in the past. Any who are maligned will find this show a place to come and tell their story. There will be a rock in every snowball and I plan to continue exactly what I started out to do. I hope you will find it interesting."

Born May 1, 1918 in Canton, Ohio, Jack Harold Paar died in Greenwich, Connecticut after a long illness on January 27, 2004. He was 85. Paar hosted THE TONIGHT SHOW from 1957-1962. He took over the show from Steve Allen and then passed the comedic torch to newcomer Johnny Carson. At the time, Paar was called the "King of Late Night TV". When Johnny Carson became host, he humbly settled for being called "The Prince of Late Night TV" Jack retired from TV in 1965. When asked why he didn't do more television, he replied "I've said everything I want to say and met everyone I want to. Why hang around?" Paar's trademark catchphrase was "I kid you not!"


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