“Tomorrow” was everything “The Tonight Show” was not.
The soothing strains of Bob Dylan’s Lay, Lady, Lay softly opened the show, the camera panned up from a Teddy Bear to the face of Tom Snyder sitting in a dimly lit studio. No band, no monologue, no studio audience, no sidekick, no nothing.
“Tomorrow” was a sort of late night afterthought for insomniacs. In the pre-cable landscape of 1973 1 A.M. was not even considered a viable time slot.
The only other viewing options at that time of night were a test pattern, a late, late movie and possibly a “McCloud” rerun.
“Tomorrow” was the equivalent of the graveyard shift for a radio DJ; informal, even a little experimental. Tom Snyder was perfect for it. Not a slick bone in his body. Snyder was smart, funny, a bit profane, good looking but nothing crazy; he smoked, he tended to babble and he laughed a little too loud at his own jokes. “Tomorrow” was the first and only show I ever saw in which you could actually hear the crew laughing at the jokes.
And it kind of worked.
Snyder would usually open the show with a layed back chat about whatever was on his mind and then he would bring on a guest and talk at length. And I mean length. None of this eight minutes, plug your (book, movie, TV show, album) then move down the couch. No, people actually talked to Tom Snyder.
The show could never happen today, it was made for a different attention span. The dead end time slot allowed for guests who were downright weird. Weirdest among them, though not by much, was Snyder’s interview with cult killer Charles Manson. At times Snyder got visibly angry with Manson’s rants and admonished “Get off the space shuttle Charlie!”
Tom Snyder interviewed everyone from John Lennon to Larry Flynt. When mainstream shows shied away from the emerging punk rock craze Snyder fearlessly talked to Johnny Rotten, The Clash and Wendy O. Williams. (O. Williams even exploded a TV set and destroyed a car on the show.)
Snyder’s distinctive laugh and mannerisms led to Dan Ackroyd’s brilliant impersonation of him. When Snyder saw his mirror image in jest he howled with laughter.
And that’s how I will always remember Tom Snyder, laughing that big, boisterous wonderful laugh.
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