Larry King died today, ending one of the most prolific and singular careers in the history of television broadcasting. For all his personal biases, idiosyncrasies, and outright faults, King was never not that rarest of things in the chameleon-friendly world of TV and radio talk: A person who was only, and entirely, himself. Few people in broadcasting have ever seemed to simultaneously give both so little, and so much, of a shit, and we’re unlikely to see his like in the broadcast booth again any time soon.
And also, one time, he gave the worst/best Sonic The Hedgehog impression in human history.
There are many classic King clips being circulated online today, from the infamous moment in which he appears to have legitimately irritated Jerry Seinfeld by suggesting that his show was “canceled,” to Debbie Reynolds’ borderline-cruel impression of Meryl Streep while King cracked up, to that time he took a 3-minute phone call in the middle of a live Dave Rubin broadcast, to Danny Pudi’s recent, triumphant, “Larry, I’m on DuckTales” moment. But for us, these can never be the Larry King clip, because they all pale in comparison to this, quite possibly the finest 90 seconds of television ever broadcast on the Ora on-demand digital network (with apologies to Brown Bag Wine Tasting with William Shatner):
This, in one croaked and nasal “No one, no one caaaares about meeee,” is the genius of Larry King laid bare. He doesn’t know who Sonic The Hedgehog is. He may have only the vaguest impression of what hedgehogs even look like. But under the gentlest of goading from Sonic star Ben Schwartz, King simply goes for it, no self-consciousness, no second-guessing. You want a Sonic impression? Larry King will give it his best damn shot.
In a Twitter thread posted earlier today, shortly after news of King’s death broke, podcaster and radio host Jesse Thorn shared his experiences interviewing the man for his 2017 podcast about the art of interviewing, The Turnaround. In the thread, Thorn highlights the way King somehow made a virtue of unpreparedness, a paradoxical achievement in the world of broadcast conversation that only worked because the man was boundlessly, all-consumingly curious about everything. You can see it in the Sonic clip, as his genuine “Why do they do this?” re: semi-soulless video game adaptations swiftly transitions into his totally game commitment to figuring out what the hell Sonic The Hedgehog might sound like. We’ve watched this clip once a week since it first aired. It’s likely that won’t be changing any time soon.