Jack Paar was born 1 May 1918
, in Canton, Ohio
. He started out as a radio announcer at the age of 16, and worked in Cleveland
and the U.S. Midwest
. During World War II
he did comedy monologues for American troops, and after the war appeared in several movies and on radio and TV shows such as those of Jack Benny
and Ed Sullivan
. In the early 1950s
he hosted a game show, "Up To Paar," and a morning variety show, "The Jack Paar Show."
But he is best remembered for hosting "The Tonight Show," starting in 1957 after Steve Allen left. It had been a variety show, but Paar made it the type of late-night talk show that is now on so many networks. It was so popular that after a year, it was renamed "The Jack Paar Show." His conversation was interesting, and he was willing to risk controversy, discussing religion with Billy Graham, interviewing Fidel Castro in Cuba, and broadcasting from Berlin as the Berlin Wall was going up. He feuded with newspaper columnists Walter Winchell and Dorothy Kilgallen, and quit the Tonight Show on camera when he found that a joke of his (about a "water closet") had been edited out without his knowing. He came back a few weeks later, though.
In 1962, Paar quit the Tonight Show permanently to reduce his stress and spend time with his wife and daughter. Johnny Carson took the Tonight Show over. Paar hosted a variety show in prime time from 1962 to 1965, and spent the late 1960s producing documentaries on foreign cultures. He also owned a television station in Poland Springs, Maine, for a while. In 1973 Paar briefly tried another late-night talkshow which was on opposite Carson's, and did not do well.
In the late 1980s he did a few TV specials with clips from his old programs and appearances by famous guests. He's also written several books, 1960's I Kid You Not, 1961's My Saber is Bent, 1965's Three on a Toothbrush, and 1983's P.S. Jack Paar. He died on January 27, 2004.