What does still exist is due only to TV-viewing Beatle fans trying to capture the moment, back before the days of home VCRs. A small portion of the interview was captured on silent home-movie film by a Beatles fan aiming an 8mm movie camera at their TV set.
The 3 minute home movie of the TV screen, while producing a poor-quality picture and only a very small fraction of the full 22 minute appearance, unfortunately is the only known 'video' in existence of John and Paul's 1968 appearance on the Tonight Show. (The 9 photos presented below are enhanced still-frames of that film.)
Luckily, all of the audio was recorded by another Beatles fan who decided to capture the TV interview by placing their amatuer audio recorder next to their TV set. Copies of this audio tape are known to circulate among collectors.
There have been some fairly successful attempts to synchronize the surviving 2 or 3 minutes of silent, low-quality video with the segments of audio that correspond with it.
It was an important time. The Beatles were currently announcing their new company Apple Corps, they had just returned from meditation in India, and they would soon begin the recording sessions for The White Album upon returning to England.
Below is the transcribed text of this lost American network television appearance from May 14th 1968: John Lennon and Paul McCartney speaking with guest host Joe Garagiola (JG), and actress Tellulah Bankhead (TB), on NBC's Tonight Show.
JG: Ladies and gentlemen, from the Beatles John Lennon and Paul McCartney!" (excited screams and applause as they walk out)
JG: Good evening, good evening. Can I ask you something? How did you get here? Not from England, but from the hotel with all the people out there?"
JOHN: Uhh, car."
JG: Car. Did you have any problems?"
JOHN: No, no. All under control. (jokingly) Well how are you, Johnny?"
JG: Well, I figure you've been interviewed all day if there's any questions you'd like to ask us..."
JOHN: What are you doing?"
PAUL: Mmm, where's Johnny?"
JG: Where is he? Gatorsburg!"
ED McMAHON: Gatorsburg!"
JG: A wonderful town."
TB: May I ask you, a big favorite all over the world, a question? Are the other two gentlemen... of the four of you... are they still in India?"
JOHN: No, they're in England."
TB: I want to ask you something, because I wish I'd learned to meditate, and I can't... I don't know how you do it. I would love to."
JOHN: Well you gotta go and find out, haven't you."
TB: Well I'm not going that far."
JOHN: Oh well."
PAUL: Forget it."
TB: If it's taken me this long, and couldn't do it, I couldn't learn there."
JOHN: Well, you can't learn to swim if you keep inland, can you? Unless you've got a pool around you."
TB: Oh honey, I can float sitting up. Don't be silly."
JG: I get the feeling there are two different conversations here!"
PAUL: Yeah right, yeah. We had a bit of trouble today this fella We did an interview for the educational program. And he started asking us questions, and they were quite sort of serious questions, you know. So it was a choice between just laughing it up, or answering seriously."
JG: So what did you do?"
PAUL: We were a bit serious."
JG: (jokingly) You? Serious?"
PAUL: Yeah. We were just sort of (clears throat comically) not too serious, you know, just sort of."
JG: Listen, of all the..."
PAUL: So tell us a joke!"
JG: I don't really have that many jokes, you tell me a joke."
JOHN: We don't know any."
TB: I think they're very serious fellows."
PAUL: That's it. We are, you know."
JOHN: We can never remember 'em, you see."
JG: Would you like to be a comedian?"
JG: In many ways you are."
JG: The four of you, socially, are you that close, or are you...?"
JOHN: We're close friends, you know."
JG: Sometimes when you work together I've been with groups that when the job's over, that's it. Do you have houses pretty much together?"
JOHN: Within twenty miles all together."
JG: If you couldn't have been in music if it hadn't happened for you what do you think you would like to do?"
JOHN: Ahh, I don't know. Films for me."
(Paul relaxes back comfortably)
JG: (pause) How about you, Paul... I'm not breaking your mood, am I?"
PAUL: No. You're doing great, you know. But, umm..."
PAUL: So, what would I like to have been?"
JOHN: A policeman."
PAUL: (to John) ..."no. Not a policeman."
PAUL: Uhh, I don't know, you know. I was nearly gonna be a teacher but that fell through, luckily."
(music swells for a commercial break... Paul begins humming along... girls scream)
JG: (to John) Why don't you read that (cue card) and see what the reaction is."
JOHN: And now a word from your local stallion."
JG: ..."a word from your local STATION!"