Jerry Seinfeld made his 1981 debut on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, so young he looks like he’s could have just come from his Bar Mitzvah. You can see where he’s headed, but he’s definitely not there yet.
YouTube has an even earlier clip of Seinfeled on something called “Celebrity Cabaret” in 1977. Definitely in that awkward phase.
Here is a compilation of other comedians making their first stand-up appearance on the Tonight Show. Including David Letterman, Jay Leno, and Eddie Murphy. I think that is Johnny Carson himself that you can hear kinda mumbling along appreciatively (also awkwardly) while he re-watches the video.
It’s fun to see the current comedy old guard in their early days. For one thing it’s a mad fashion slalom course to see what stand-up’s were wearing in the 70’s and 80’s. Leno shows tremendous commitment to a single color there.
And, yes, that’s right, someone hosted The Tonight Show prior to Leno. In fact there was someone before Carson, too.
Lastly, here’s Steven Wright‘s first time on the Tonight Show or TV at all. It’s worth seeing the interview with him at the end–it turns out that a scout for Carson just called him out of the blue to invite him on the show.