Jack Harold Paar (May 1, 1918 - January 27, 2004) was an American radio and television talk show host.
Born in Canton, Ohio, Paar began his broadcasting career in radio, working first in Cleveland, Ohio and later, throughout the Midwest. After World War II, Paar tried his hand at acting and comedy, frequently appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show. It was during an impressive stint as a guest host on Jack Benny's radio show that he caught the attention of NBC officials who eventually offered him his most well known role, host of The Tonight Show. Paar was the program's host from 1957 to 1962; after 1959 it was known as The Jack Paar Show.
During Paar's career, he was the cause of two international incidents. In 1959, he was criticized for his interview with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Two years later, he broadcasted his show from Berlin just as the Berlin Wall was going up.
Paar was often emotional and unpredictable; in 1960, a night after one of his skits had been cut from the broadcast by studio censors, he announced suddenly that he was leaving the show. "Iíve made a decision about what Iím going to do. Iím 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 [...] But they let me down." Less than a month later he was convinced to return; on March 7 he opened with the now-famous line "as I was saying before I was interrupted..."
He then went on to explain his departure with typical frankness: "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. Iím 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."
In 1962 Paar exchanged his late-night slot for a prime-time Friday night show on NBC that lasted for another three years. He made it clear in the last season that he wasn't planning to continue with the show. His last signoff featured him sharing a discussion he had had with his daughter, who insisted on calling his departure a sabbatical. Noting the origins of the term, he said that his own field was, though not completely used up, "a little dry recently". Then he called to his german shepherd from the seats of what was, for once, an empty studio, and walked out.
Paar came back for another late-night show in March 1975, on ABC; this time, as one of a group of rotating hosts, one week out of each month. The show, which was in direct competition with Tonight, only lasted for half a year.
In 1986, NBC hosted a special featuring Paar entitled Jack Paar Comes Home.
Paar died at his Greenwich, Connecticut in January, 2004, at age 85, with his daughter and wife by his side. He had long been ill, and had suffered a stroke the year before.