Sorry, for those of you who weren't there, (everyone)I suppose I should fill in some of the blanks. The comparison is made from the perspective of the lay audience, with the emphasis being on the impact each magician has had on the public's perception of what magic is.
A related question was, "if each of these magicians were the most popular representatives of magic at their given moments, what does that say about society in general, and what society expects from magicians?"
And, "was the success of the immediate predecessor necessary to each subsequent performer?" Or does the expression, "this is not your father's magic guy" have any meaning for the lay public?
I would suggest that it is possible to compare Mr. Blaine to any stage illusionist, since they're all the same size on your television. In fact, the public's apparent fascination with close-up magic does, I suggest, say significant things about people today, and their desire to get past the hype and spin, and see things that are "real".
And as for Bill's "tonight show" comparison, I suppose the theme is "guys who did or didn't like Harry Lorrayne"?