Sad news about the death of Ed McMahon today, a TV icon who represented a disappearing breed—of ubiquitous, up-for-anything TV personality, of a colloquial ease with the camera that transcended any silly show he found himself on.
While most famous for being Johnny Carson's go-to man (an able backboard for jokes, an incredulous-yet-always-rolling-with-it co-witness to bizarre moments and personalities), McMahon also acquitted himself nicely on the long-running Star Search. While recognizing the show's inherent cheesiness with a wry twinkle in his bespectacled eye, McMahon was never condescending or dismissive of the dreamers who danced and sang and acted and told jokes so earnestly on center stage. Maybe that was just the style of the time, but when compared to the detached smugness of a Ryan Seacrest or the acrid British lady on So You Think You Can Dance, McMahon carried himself with an air of, well, genuine class. We know "class" is word that's become something of a joke, but McMahon knew that the word was sincere and important. Ed wanted you to enjoy what you were watching, and for the people performing to enjoy what they were doing. He made everyone comfortable and kept things moving. A lot easier said than done. He was even good at giving people enormous checks!
While McMahon ran into some slighty embarrassing financial problems late in his life, he briefly reentered the public eye in a great way with a hilarious, gently self-mocking bit in a Cash-4-Gold commercial that ran during the Super Bowl. Amid all the glitzy expensive beer ads, his was the funniest and, yes in a strange way classiest, of the evening.