Johnny Carson
Talk show host
Johnny Carson
John William "Johnny" Carson was an American television host and comedian, known for thirty years as host of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962–1992). Carson received six Emmy Awards, the Governor Award, and a 1985 Peabody Award. He was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1987. Johnny Carson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992 and received a Kennedy Center Honor in 1993.
Biography
Johnny Carson's personal information overview.
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News
News abour Johnny Carson from around the web
A Look Back At 28 Memorable 'Soul Train' Performances
Huffington Post - 18 days
In 1970, Don Cornelius created the first musical television show catered to black audiences with the cultural phenomenon of “Soul Train.” Launched as a local television program in Chicago in 1970, the music variety show ― hosted by Cornelius ― was syndicated in other national markets a year later and it ran until 2006. Similar to Dick Clark’s music-performance show “American Bandstand,” “Soul Train” featured guests dancing to latest music hits and served as a platform to showcase black music acts, including Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Janet Jackson, and Destiny’s Child.  The influential show also spawned the creation of the Soul Train dance line and, eventually became the longest running nationally-syndicated music program in television history. Cornelius said during a 2010 USA Today interview that he launched the show to give viewers an alternative to then-popular talk shows, “The Mike Douglas Show,” and “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,” which were mostly targete ...
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Dr. Henry J. Heimlich, Famous for Antichoking Technique, Dies at 96 - New York Times
Google News - 2 months
New York Times Dr. Henry J. Heimlich, Famous for Antichoking Technique, Dies at 96 New York Times Dr. Heimlich demonstrating the Heimlich maneuver on Johnny Carson in 1979. Credit Gene Arias/NBC, via Getty Images. It is called the Heimlich maneuver — saving a choking victim with a bear hug and abdominal thrusts to eject a throat obstruction — and ... Henry Heimlich, life-saving maneuver creator, dies at 96Atlanta Journal Constitution Dr. Heimlich, The Man Behind The Life-Saving Maneuver, DiesNPR Henry Heimlich, Developer Of Anti-Choking Maneuver, Dead At 96Huffington Post New York Daily News -KOMO News -fox2now.com -U.S. News & World Report all 120 news articles »
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Nonfiction: A New Biography of Joan Rivers
NYTimes - 3 months
Leslie Bennetts’s “Last Girl Before Freeway” revisits milestones in Joan Rivers’s life, like her childhood, marriage and famous break with Johnny Carson.
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Comic and Playwright Lisa Lampanelli- My Play "Stuffed" Shows That We're All Really Still Working On Ourselves"
Huffington Post - 4 months
The word "metamorphosis" does not even do Lisa Lampanelli justice. From notorious roaster to playwright, Lampanelli is slowly moving to a more centered direction with her play "Stuffed" focusing on four women with varied eating issues, but still keeping her signature razor sharp wit on stage during her stand up. Lampanelli sat down to chat with me about her new play "Stuffed", her absolute adoration for Howard Stern, and how she is learning to not compare herself to anyone else at all. You have gone through a complete transformation, both personally and professionally. You appeared recently on "The Wendy Williams Show" and looked absolutely stunning! Yes, thank you! My boobs will never match hers though, I'll tell you that! (laughs). Basically, I think some of the weight helped take some of the walls down in reality, so basically I got a little more confident. I'm definitely not super confident, but I am confident that I don't have to hide behind those layers of fat and ...
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Shecky Trump
Huffington Post - 4 months
Last night's Al Smith dinner in NYC revealed the final piece of the puzzle about Donald Trump. He has no sense of humor. As a comedy writer by trade who has made his entire career out of making people laugh,  like most other comedy writers I take the job very seriously. There are all kinds of humor, both high and low and you pretty much get what you pay for.  There is no accounting for personal taste and I think what we gravitate towards, comedically reflects the things that made us laugh right out the gate. Growing up, my parent's comedy was mine too.  I grew up adoring Chaplin, Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, W.C. Fields, Jack Benny, Burns and Allen, The Three Stooges, Jerry Lewis, Bob and Ray, the parade of swaggering comics on Ed Sullivan like Alan King and Henny Youngman until I went my own way when youth co-opted comedy and suddenly comics were rock stars in arenas, from Robin Williams, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Garry Shandling to Dice Clay and man the first year of SNL- ...
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Me and Auntie Mame in New York
Huffington Post - 4 months
Every kid needs an Auntie Mame. My Auntie Mame was born in 1895. Her name was Dorothy and she was my grandfather's sister. She took a liking to me from the very beginning. In fact, when I was first learning to walk my mother and Dorothy were on opposite sides of the room and each called out to me to come to them. Since I had two choices, I couldn't go to both, so I headed towards Dorothy. Perhaps as a toddler I knew that one day Dorothy would treat me to 3 days in Manhattan. As for Mom, she was gracious about the slight. After all, since I lived with Mom I saw her everyday but that was not the case with Dorothy. Aunt Dorothy was really my introduction to the world. When I was 13, she announced that she wanted to take me to New York City for a long weekend. Mom had no problems about letting me go, since I was already spending several weekends a year at Aunt Dorothy's apartment in Philadelphia. In a sense I grew up having two mothers. When at last the coveted Manhat ...
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Ritch Shydner: Veteran Comedian And Chronicler Of The 1980s Comedy Boom
Huffington Post - 5 months
Comedian Ritch Shydner All photos courtesy of Ritch Shydner Ritch Shydner's new book, "Kicking Through The Ashes: My Life as a Stand-up in the 1980s Comedy Explosion", has just been published. In the 1980s, Ritch made numerous appearances on TV, including "Late Night with David Letterman" and "The Tonight Show" with both Johnny Carson and Jay Leno. He did an HBO half-hour special, "One Night Stand." He played Al Bundy's co-worker on "Married with Children", and made guest appearances on many other TV shows, such as "Designing Women" and "Roseanne." Ritch was able to translate his modest success on TV into an obscure film career, appearing in Steve Martin's, "Roxanne," and Eddie Murphy's, "Beverly Hills Cop II," before moving on to minor roles on smaller pictures. Ritch wrote for sitcoms such as "Roseanne", "The Jeff Foxworthy Show," and HBO's "The Mind of the Married Man." He wrote material for Jeff Foxworthy's Grammy-nominated comedy albums, "Totally Committed," and "Big ...
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A Chat with Veteran Comedy Writer Extraordinaire (The Jerk, Jaws, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour) Carl Gottlieb
Huffington Post - 9 months
Carl Gottlieb Screenwriter, director, and actor Carl Gottlieb shared an Emmy Award in 1969 for outstanding writing achievement in comedy, variety, or music, for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. For his work writing (with Peter Benchley) the iconic 1975 movie Jaws, he received a Golden Globes Award nomination and British Academy Award nomination. His movie writing credits also include: Which Way is Up? Jaws II, The Jerk, Caveman, Dr. Detroit, and Jaws 3-D. His TV writing work includes episodes of The Odd Couple, The Bob Newhart Show, and various Flip Wilson specials. He has directed Ringo Starr in Caveman, been an original member of the iconic comedy improve troupe The Committee, and written the books The Jaws Log, and (with David Crosby), Long Time Gone: The Autobiography of David Crosby. Carl has served as Vice-President, Treasurer, and member of the Board of Directors of the Writers Guild of America, and is a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. ...
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PBS Documentary on Loretta Lynn Recounts the Debt Modern Country Music Owes to 'Fist City'
Huffington Post - 12 months
Loretta Lynn won America's affection with the 1980 film Coal Miner's Daughter. Now the producers of a new PBS documentary want her to also score a little more of America's admiration. "Besides being a wonderful, genuine person, Loretta is underrated as an artist and particularly as a songwriter," says executive producer Elliott Halpern from Yap Films, which made Loretta Lynn: Still a Mountain Girl. That documentary debuts at 9 p.m. ET Friday in the PBS "American Masters" series, marking the start of Women's History Month and coming just six weeks ahead of Lynn's 84th birthday. Lynn launched her music career a little on the late side. She married at 15 and had four children by the age of 20, which was why she didn't around to having her first country hit, "I'm a Honky Tonk Girl," until 1960, when she was 28. Over the next 20 years, she scored 16 No. 1 hits while becoming a larger-than-life American personality. One vintage clip in Still a Mountain Girl shows her comple ...
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On the Love Train With Cornel West
Huffington Post - about 1 year
I first met "brother" Cornel in May of 2000. I was in the early years of my career as an English teacher, working in the kind of troubled NYC ghetto schools where, according to Cornel West, "poor kids get trained"--unlike wealthy schools where "rich kids get taught." The setting for our life-changing encounter was a church on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. This is fitting, given the deep theological nature of Cornel's work as a philosopher, activist, and public intellectual. After his lecture, at a conference with the hopeful title "Reimagining Politics & Society at the Millennium" (sponsored by the current chair of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, Michael Lerner), I approached the podium tentatively. In a country low on public intellectuals, unlike France, I had little prior experience in meeting someone like West who, let's face it, might even be the most famous and important American intellectual we have. Nervously, not knowing what to expect, I approache ...
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Potty Talk for Donald and His Disciples
Huffington Post - about 1 year
A brief history of the schlong and the bathroom as they relate to Donald Trump and his most recent comments. Trump recently made linguistic history, first, mocking Hillary for a "disgusting" bathroom trip she made during Saturday night's debate, and describing Barack Obama as having "schlonged" her in the 2008 primaries: "She was favored to win and she got schlonged," he said. Part deux was about Hillary's sojourn in the bathroom. Remarking on Clinton's late return to the podium after her visit there during a commercial break at this weekend's Democratic debate, Trump said, "I know where she went. It's disgusting. I don't want to talk about it. It's disgusting." First, as to having been "schlanged," Mr. Trump, alas, knows not of what he speaks. He is clearly unfamiliar with bawdy language, especially those words based in Yiddish. As a public service, we offer a crash course on the topic. There are many good ways of describing Trump in Yiddish. The best would be as ...
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Melissa Rivers On Channeling Her Late Mother In Fiery 'Joy' Cameo
Huffington Post - about 1 year
About halfway through "Joy," David O. Russell's new movie about the struggling single mother who created the Miracle Mop, the title character lands a deal with QVC. She will be given the chance to peddle her invention on television, and the first time she is ushered backstage, Joy quickly finds herself face to face with the network's most famous representative: Joan Rivers.  Just over a year since the brassy comedian's death, it's uncanny to see such a larger-than-life personality portrayed on the big screen -- and even more so because it's Melissa Rivers, Joan's daughter, who plays her.  Not long after Joan died of complications during a routine throat operation, Melissa received a message from her agent saying that Russell and producer John Davis wanted to meet with her. Melissa had known Davis for years, but she found herself "tongue-tied" in the director's company. They discussed Joan's life and QVC tenure, but it wasn't until Melissa was driving home that she realized Russ ...
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The Miracles at the Whitney
Huffington Post - about 1 year
We all experience miracles both big and small -- some of us more often than others. Whether or not you fully experience them is pretty much up to your own personal level of awareness. But trust me: it happens. I have experienced not one but two extraordinary moments of convergence that happened at The Whitney Museum. The old one and the new one. Miracle #1 One of my closest friends in the world when I was around 17 was Jeff Hessing. We were guitar slinging bad boys together at camp. But as life often sprouts new, often impulsive tracks to follow, especially when you are young, Jeff and I wandered away from each other, distracted no doubt by the dazzling lights of endless possibilities. Life went on for decades without him strumming next to me. Around 2000ish Jeff posted a note on our camp electronic bulletin board wondering about me. It turns out that Jeff had become a world class painter now living in Provence, in the south of France. Wow. He and I connected a ...
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Big in Fashion - King James Version
Huffington Post - about 1 year
Things don't work the same for me, as they do for others. I mean, if I changed my name to Kardashian, somehow I doubt that people would believe that I was part of the famous clan. And then there was that time during fashion week, when I was tempted only for a minute to say that I was Rachel Zoe's adopted black plus-size baby. I figured she wouldn't be offended because it was right on trend - adopting black babies, that is. I'm not going to lie, I'm a bit delusional especially when it comes to styling myself which is why I used to struggle. A lot. I still get flattered when people approach me - other than my clients that is, to ask for style advice. And I was especially surprised when King Size Direct approached me to be a brand ambassador. I'm creating looks from their inventory inspired by current menswear trends. That said, I was thrilled because Like Jennifer Lawrence for Dior, or Michelle Williams for Louis Vuitton, I was on my way. It's the same thing. Sort ...
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Huffington Post article
Bob Saget Says Mentor Bill Cosby Has Been 'Tarnished' By 'Despicable' Acts
Huffington Post - about 1 year
Bob Saget counts Bill Cosby as an early and influential mentor, but he admits Cosby's legacy has been forever damaged by the "despicable" acts of sexual assault that more than 50 women have claimed he perpetrated.  During a conversation with HuffPost Live about his role in the Broadway show "Hand to God," Saget -- who attended Temple University, as did Cosby -- said that "any human being that does things that are despicable to other human beings will be slightly tarnished by history." "I went to Temple University and he was a mentor of mine, and I was on 'The Tonight Show' [with Cosby] two weeks before Johnny Carson went off, and it's very sad," Saget said. "I think the answer is obvious -- that the man has been tarnished -- and it's just sad for all of the people involved." Saget's "Hand to God" co-star Steven Boyer added that he sees Cosby's comedy differently since so many women have told their stories of allegedly being drugged and abused by the "Cosby Show" sta ...
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Timeline
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Johnny Carson
    THIRTIES
  • 2005
    The 2005 film The Aristocrats was dedicated to Carson.
    More Details Hide Details The Simpsons, season 16 episode 7, "Mommie Beerest" – dedicated the episode in his memory. At the 1st Annual Comedy Awards on Comedy Central, the Johnny Carson Award was given to David Letterman. At the 2nd Annual Comedy Awards on Comedy Central, the Johnny Carson Award was given to Don Rickles. A two-hour documentary about his life, Johnny Carson: King of Late Night, aired on PBS on May 14, 2012, as part of their American Masters series. It is narrated by Kevin Spacey and features interviews with many of Carson's family, fellow comedians, and protégés. Johnny Carson: American Masters Documentary (Reference 4 Marriages)
    In August 2010, the charitable foundation created by Johnny Carson reported receiving $156 million from a personal trust established by the entertainer years prior to his January 2005 death.
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    At 6:50 am PST on January 23, 2005, Carson died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles of respiratory failure arising from emphysema.
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  • 2002
    He was 79, and had revealed his terminal illness to the public in September 2002.
    More Details Hide Details His body was cremated, and the ashes were given to his wife, Alexis Maas. In accordance with his family's wishes, no public memorial service was held. Carson is also survived by his younger brother, Dick, who is an Emmy Award-winning director of, among other things, the competing Merv Griffin Show and Wheel of Fortune. Numerous tributes were paid to Carson upon his death, including a statement by then-President George W. Bush, all recognizing the deep and enduring affection held for him. On January 31, The Late Show with David Letterman paid tribute with former Tonight Show executive producer Peter Lassally and bandleader Doc Severinsen. At the beginning of this show, Letterman said that for 30 years no matter what was going on in the world, whether people had a good or bad day, they wanted to end it being "tucked in by Johnny." He also told his viewers that the monologue he had just spoken, which was very well received by the studio audience, consisted entirely of jokes sent to him by Carson in the last few months of his life. Doc Severinsen ended the Letterman show that night by playing, along with Tommy Newsom and Ed Shaughnessy, one of Carson's two favorite songs, "Here's That Rainy Day" (the other was "I'll Be Seeing You"). The Tonight Show with Jay Leno also paid tribute to Carson with guests Ed McMahon, Bob Newhart, Don Rickles, Drew Carey, and k.d. lang.
  • TWENTIES
  • 1999
    On March 19, 1999, Carson suffered a severe heart attack at his home in Malibu, California, and was hospitalized in nearby Santa Monica, where he underwent quadruple-bypass surgery.
    More Details Hide Details Carson was a heavy smoker for decades and, in the early days of his tenure on Tonight, often smoked on-camera. It was reported that as early as the mid-1970s, he would repeatedly say, "These things are killing me." His younger brother recalled that during their last conversation, Carson kept saying, "Those damn cigarettes."
  • 1996
    Carson was the first person to contact Sagan's wife Ann Druyan with condolences when the scientist died in 1996.
    More Details Hide Details He owned several telescopes, including a Questar, considered at the time a top-of-the-line instrument. Carson was shown on a 1978 segment of 60 Minutes practicing at home on a drum set given to him by close friend Buddy Rich, who was the jazz musician with the most appearances on The Tonight Show. Gore Vidal, another frequent Tonight Show guest and friend, wrote about Carson's personality in his 2006 memoir. In 1982, Carson was found to be driving his DeLorean while under the influence of alcohol. He pleaded nolo contendere to a misdemeanor charge and received a sentence of three years' probation. Carson was required to attend an alcohol program for drivers and was permitted to use his car only to drive to work and back, without transporting any persons or animals in his vehicle. Carson was an avid tennis player. When he sold a Malibu house to John McEnroe and Tatum O'Neal, the escrow terms required McEnroe to give Johnny six tennis lessons. Carson's primary tennis teacher was Bob Trapenberg, who taught him for some time, and traveled with him to Wimbledon.
  • 1992
    In addition, the final image of the show, as well as some "More to Come" bumpers, of Carson's last show on May 22, 1992, featured a photo Richard had taken.
    More Details Hide Details In 1981, Carson created the John W. Carson Foundation, dedicated to supporting children, education, and health services. The foundation continues to support charitable causes. In November 2004, Carson announced a $5.3 million gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation to support the Hixson–Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts Department of Theater Arts, which created the Johnny Carson School of Theater and Film. Another $5 million donation was announced by the estate of Carson to the University of Nebraska following his death, while a $1 million donation was announced on November 4, 2011, creating the Johnny Carson Opportunity Scholarship Fund. Carson also donated to causes in his hometown of Norfolk, including the Carson Cancer Center at Faith Regional Health Services, the Elkhorn Valley Museum, and the Johnny Carson Theater at Norfolk Senior High School. Carson also donated to the Northeast Community College Lifelong Learning Center in honor of his favorite teacher, Miss Faye Gordon. Miss Gordon had appeared on his show a number of times. His last known visit to Norfolk was to throw the 100th-birthday party for Miss Gordon, which Carson had promised to do several years earlier.
    Johnny Carson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992 and received a Kennedy Center Honor in 1993.
    More Details Hide Details Although his show was already successful by the end of the 1960s, during the 1970s, Carson became an American icon and remained so even after his retirement in 1992. He adopted a casual, conversational approach with extensive interaction with guests, an approach pioneered by Arthur Godfrey and previous Tonight Show hosts Steve Allen and Jack Paar. Former late-night host and friend David Letterman cited Carson's influence.
  • 1991
    Carson had three sons, Christopher, Cory, and Richard. All three sons were from his first marriage. Richard Carson died on June 21, 1991, when his car plunged down a steep embankment along a paved service road off Highway 1 near Cayucos, California.
    More Details Hide Details Apparently, Richard had been taking photographs when the accident occurred. On the first Tonight Show after Ricky's death, Carson paid tribute to Ricky's photographic work by showing his nature slides, accompanied by Stevie Ray Vaughan on blues guitar playing "Riviera Paradise".
  • TEENAGE
  • 1987
    On June 20, 1987, Carson married Alexis Maas.
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  • 1985
    The divorce case finally ended in 1985 with an 80-page settlement, Holland receiving $20 million in cash and property.
    More Details Hide Details Eddie Murphy documented his reaction to Carson's divorce in his comedy special "Eddie Murphy: Raw".
    Carson sold both of his stations between 1985 and 1986 with KVVU-TV (FOX 5) going to The James Meredith Corporation and KNAT being sold to Trinity Broadcasting Network.
    More Details Hide Details Carson's other business ventures included the successful Johnny Carson Apparel, Inc.—his turtlenecks became a fashion trend—and a failed restaurant franchise. Carson retired from show business on May 22, 1992, at age 66, when he stepped down as host of The Tonight Show. His farewell was a major media event, often emotional for Carson, his colleagues, and the audiences, and stretched over several nights. In tribute to Carson and his enormous influence, several networks that had late-night variety talk shows "went dark" for the entire hour he did the last show. The Tonight Show finally won the Emmy for Outstanding Late-night Series after 13 tries later that year, buoyed by the penultimate broadcast which featured Johnny's final two guests, Robin Williams and Bette Midler. NBC gave the role of host to the show's then-current permanent guest host, Jay Leno. Leno and David Letterman were soon competing on separate networks.
  • 1982
    Carson's second station, independent KNAT-TV in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was purchased in 1982.
    More Details Hide Details Unlike the Las Vegas operation, KNAT faced stiffer competition for top-quality, syndicated programming.
  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1979
    Carson was head of a group of investors who purchased and operated two television stations. The first was KVVU-TV in Henderson, Nevada, an independent station serving Las Vegas, acquired by the Carson group in 1979.
    More Details Hide Details Shortly after buying the station, KVVU was rumored to be acquiring an NBC affiliation as then long-time affiliate KORK-TV was in the process of being replaced by KVBC (and now KSNV), but it never happened.
  • 1974
    Carson apologized in January 1974 for the incident, which became what The New York Times called a "classic study" of how rumors spread.
    More Details Hide Details Carson successfully sued a manufacturer of portable toilets that wanted to call its product "Here's Johnny." Carson did a send-up of the "Mr. Rogers" character, where he played an evil Mr. Rogers who wanted children to steal money from their parents so his show could continue. Fred Rogers was not impressed with the skit. Carson later apologized to Rogers for making fun of him. Carson was a major investor in the now-failed DeLorean Motor Company.
  • 1973
    In December 1973, Carson joked on Tonight about an alleged shortage of toilet paper.
    More Details Hide Details Panic buying and hoarding ensued across the United States as consumers emptied stores, causing a real shortage that lasted for weeks. Stores and toilet paper manufacturers had to ration supplies until the panic ended.
  • 1972
    At the Carson Tonight Show 10th-anniversary party on September 30, 1972, Carson announced that former model Joanna Holland and he had been secretly married that afternoon, shocking his friends and associates. Bob Newhart kidded that he had married three similarly named women to avoid "having to change the monogram on the towels." On March 8, 1983, Holland filed for divorce.
    More Details Hide Details Under California's community-property laws, she was entitled to 50% of all the assets accumulated during the marriage, though Carson earned virtually all of the couple's income. During this period, he joked on The Tonight Show, "my producer, Freddie de Cordova, really gave me something I needed for Christmas. He gave me a gift certificate to the law offices of Jacoby & Meyers."
    Though Carson's program was based in Burbank beginning in 1972, NBC's editing and production services for the program were located in New York, resulting in the requirement that Carson's program be transmitted from Burbank to New York.
    More Details Hide Details In 1976, NBC used the Satcom 2 satellite to do this, feeding the live taping (which usually took place in the early evening) directly to New York, where it would be edited prior to the normal broadcast. This live feed lasted usually from two to two-and-a-half hours a night and was uncensored and commercial-free. During the commercial breaks, the audio and picture would be left on, capturing at times risque language and other events that would certainly be edited out later going out over the feed. At the same time, satellite ground stations owned by individuals began appearing, and some found the live feed. Satellite dish owners began to document their sightings in technical journals, giving viewers knowledge of things they were not meant to see. Carson and his production staff grew concerned about this and pressured NBC into ceasing the satellite transmissions of the live taping in the early 1980s. The satellite link was replaced by microwave transmission until the show's editing facilities were moved to Burbank.
  • 1971
    After July 1971, Carson stopped hosting shows five days a week.
    More Details Hide Details Instead, Monday nights had a guest host, leaving Carson to host the other four each week. Shows were videotaped in Burbank at 5:30 pm, fed from there to the Central and Eastern time zone stations via cross-country television line at 8:30 pm Pacific time (11:30 pm Eastern time), and later rebroadcast again from Burbank to the Pacific time zone stations at 11:30 pm Pacific time. Since only two feeds originated from Burbank, Central time zone stations received the Eastern feed one hour earlier at 10:30 pm their time, and Mountain time stations received the Pacific time zone feed one hour later at 12:30 am their time. In 1980, at Carson's request, the show cut its 90-minute format to 60 minutes on September 16; Tom Snyder's Tomorrow added a half-hour to fill the vacant time. Joan Rivers became the "permanent" guest host from September 1983 until 1986. The Tonight Show returned to using rotating guest hosts, including comic George Carlin. Jay Leno then became the exclusive guest host in fall 1987. Leno joked that although other guest hosts had upped their fees, he had kept his low, assuring himself more bookings. Eventually, Monday night was for Leno, Tuesday for The Best of Carson—rebroadcasts usually dating from a year earlier, but occasionally from the 1970s.
  • 1970
    As he explained in 1970, "In my living room I would argue for liberalization of abortion laws, divorce laws, and there are times when I would like to express a view on the air.
    More Details Hide Details I would love to have taken on Billy Graham. But I'm on TV five nights a week; I have nothing to gain by it and everything to lose." He also seldom invited political figures onto the Tonight Show because he "didn't want it to become a political forum" and did not want the show used, by himself or others, to influence the opinions of the viewers. In his book, Carson's former lawyer Henry Bushkin stated, he "he was by instinct and upbringing definitely Republican, but of an Eisenhower sort that we don't see much of anymore. Overall, you'd have to say he was anti-big: anti-big government, anti-big money, anti-big bullies, anti-big blowhards." Carson served as MC for Ronald Reagan's inauguration in 1981 at the request of Frank Sinatra.
  • OTHER
  • 1962
    Although he continued to have doubts about his new job, Carson became host of Tonight (later becoming The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson) on October 1, 1962, and, after a difficult first year, overcame his fears.
    More Details Hide Details While Tonight under its previous hosts had been successful, especially under Paar, Carson's version eventually did very well in the ratings. Billy Wilder said of Carson: McMahon followed Carson from Who Do You Trust? as his announcer and sidekick and Skitch Henderson was installed as the maestro of the NBC orchestra. McMahon's famous introduction, "Heeeeere's Johnny!!!" was followed by a brief monologue by Carson. This was often followed by comedy sketches, interviews, and music. Carson's trademark was a phantom golf swing at the end of his monologues, aimed stage left toward the studio orchestra. (Guest hosts sometimes parodied that gesture. Bob Newhart rolled an imaginary bowling ball toward the audience.) Paul Anka wrote the theme song, ("Johnny's Theme"), a reworking of his "Toot Sweet"; given lyrics, it was renamed, "It's Really Love" and recorded by Annette Funicello in 1959. Before taking over The Tonight Show, Carson wrote lyrics for the song, thus claimed 50% of the song's performance royalties (though the lyrics were never used). The theme is heard being played on sound recordings of Carson's first Tonight Show and it was used without interruption through to his very last broadcast on May 22, 1992.
    Carson can be seen discussing his upcoming job for the first time on the February 11, 1962, episode of What's My Line?
    More Details Hide Details Because Carson had six months left on his ABC contract, NBC used multiple guest hosts until he could take over, including Merv Griffin, Art Linkletter, Joey Bishop, Arlene Francis (the first woman to host The Tonight Show), Bob Cummings, Jerry Lewis, Groucho Marx, Donald O'Connor, and others.
    Bob Newhart, Jackie Gleason, Groucho Marx, and Joey Bishop all declined, as well, but NBC finally convinced Carson to sign by early February 1962.
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  • 1958
    In 1958, he appeared as a guest star in an episode entitled "Do You Trust Your Wife" on NBC's short-lived variety show, The Polly Bergen Show.
    More Details Hide Details On Who Do You Trust?, Carson met his future sidekick and straight man, Ed McMahon. Although he believed moving to daytime would hurt his career, Who Do You Trust? was a success. It was the first show where he could ad lib and interview guests, and because of Carson's on-camera wit, the show became "the hottest item on daytime television" during his five years at ABC. NBC's Tonight was the late-night counterpart to its early-morning show Today. Originating in 1953 with host Steve Allen, Tonight was somewhat experimental at the time, as the only previous network late-night program was NBC's Broadway Open House which starred Jerry Lester and Dagmar. Tonight was successful, and when Allen moved on to prime-time comedy-variety shows in 1956, Jack Paar replaced him as host of Tonight. Paar left the show in 1962. Johnny Carson's success on ABC's Who Do You Trust? led NBC to invite him to take over Tonight a few months before Paar's departure. Carson declined the offer because he feared the difficulty of interviewing celebrities for 1 3/4 hours (105 minutes) daily.
  • 1955
    In 1955, Jack Benny invited Carson to appear on one of his programs during the opening and closing segments.
    More Details Hide Details Carson imitated Benny and claimed that Benny had copied his gestures. Benny predicted that Carson would have a successful career as a comedian. Carson hosted several shows besides Carson's Cellar, including the game show Earn Your Vacation (1954) and the CBS variety show The Johnny Carson Show (1955–1956). He was a guest panelist on the original To Tell the Truth starting in 1960, later becoming a regular panelist from 1961 until 1962. After the prime-time The Johnny Carson Show failed, he moved to New York City to host Who Do You Trust? (1957–1962), formerly known as Do You Trust Your Wife?
  • 1954
    In 1954, Skelton during rehearsal accidentally knocked himself unconscious an hour before his live show began, and Carson successfully filled in for him.
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  • 1953
    In 1953, comic Red Skelton—a fan of Carson's "cult success" low-budget sketch comedy show, Carson's Cellar (1951 to 1953) on KNXT—asked Carson to join his show as a writer.
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  • 1951
    The wife of one of the Omaha political figures Carson spoofed owned stock in a radio station in Los Angeles, and in 1951 referred Carson to her brother, who was influential in the emerging television market in southern California.
    More Details Hide Details Carson joined CBS-owned Los Angeles television station KNXT.
  • 1950
    He began his broadcasting career in 1950 at WOW radio and television in Omaha, Nebraska.
    More Details Hide Details Carson soon hosted a morning television program called The Squirrel's Nest. One of his routines involved interviewing pigeons on the roof of the local courthouse that would allegedly report on the political corruption they had seen. Carson supplemented his income by serving as master of ceremonies at local church dinners, attended by some of the same politicians and civic leaders that he had lampooned on the radio.
  • 1949
    Carson graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in radio and speech with a minor in physics in 1949.
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  • 1948
    In 1948, Carson married Joan Wolcott. The marriage was volatile, with infidelities committed by both parties, and ended in divorce in 1963. Carson married Joanne Copeland the same year, on August 17. After a second protracted divorce proceeding in 1972, Copeland received a settlement of $6000 per month in alimony until she remarried or until Johnny's death (she received it until his death in 2005).
    More Details Hide Details She also received "a pretty nice little art collection." She later had a second marriage that also ended in divorce, and died in California, aged 83, in 2015. She had no children.
  • 1943
    Carson joined the United States Navy on June 8, 1943, received V-12 Navy College Training Program officer training at Columbia University and Millsaps College.
    More Details Hide Details Commissioned an ensign late in the war, Carson was assigned to the in the Pacific. While in the Navy, Carson posted a 10–0 amateur boxing record, with most of his bouts fought on board the Pennsylvania. He was en route to the combat zone aboard a troop ship when the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the war. Carson served as a communications officer in charge of decoding encrypted messages. He said that the high point of his military career was performing a magic trick for United States Secretary of the Navy James V. Forrestal. In a conversation with Forrestal, the Secretary of the Navy asked Carson if he planned to stay in the navy after the war. In response, Carson said no and told him he wanted to be a magician. Forrestal asked him to perform, and Carson responded with a card trick. Carson made the discovery that he could entertain and amuse someone as cranky and sophisticated as Forrestal.
  • 1925
    Carson was born on October 23, 1925, in Corning, Iowa, to Homer Lloyd "Kit" Carson (1899-1983), a power company manager, and Ruth (Hook) Carson (1901-1985), who was of Irish descent.
    More Details Hide Details He grew up in the nearby towns of Avoca, Clarinda, and Red Oak in southwest Iowa before moving to Norfolk, Nebraska, at the age of eight. There, Carson grew up and began developing his talent for entertaining. At the age of 12, Carson found a book on magic at a friend's house and immediately purchased a mail-order magician's kit. After the purchase of the kit, Johnny Carson practiced his entertainment skills on family members with card tricks. He was known for following his family members around saying, "Pick a card, any card." Carson's mother sewed him a cape, and his first performance was staged in front of the local Kiwanis Club. He debuted as "The Great Carsoni" at age 14 and he was paid $3 a show. Soon, many other performances at local picnics and country fairs followed. After graduating from high school, Carson had his first encounter with Hollywood. Carson hitchhiked to Hollywood, where he was arrested and fined $50 for impersonating a midshipman, a story often seen as apocryphal. "Johnny embarked on an adventure, one so laden with implications about his future, that some have wondered if the escapade might not actually be a legend."
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