John William "Johnny" Carson (October 23, 1925 January 23, 2005) was an American television host and comedian, known as host of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson for 30 years (1962 1992). Carson received six Emmy Awards including the Governor Award and a 1985 Peabody Award; he was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1987. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992, and received Kennedy Center Honors in 1993.
Although his show was already hugely successful by the end of the 1960s, it was during the 1970s that he became an American icon and the "best guest" in American homes up until his retirement in 1992. Carson 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. Late night hosts David Letterman, Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien, Craig Ferguson, and Jimmy Fallon have all cited  Carson's influence on their late-night talk shows, which greatly resemble his in format and tone.
Early life and career
Carson was born in Corning, Iowa, on October 23, 1925, to Homer "Kit" Lloyd Carson, a power company manager, and Ruth Hook Carson. 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. 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. He debuted as "The Great Carsoni" at 14 and was paid $3; many other performances at local picnics and country fairs followed.
Navy portrait of Carson Carson joined the U.S. Navy on June 8, 1943, received V-12 officer training at Columbia University and Millsaps College, and continued to perform magic.
Carson then attended the University of Nebraska in Lincoln where he joined Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, continued performing magic (now paid $25 per appearance), wrote a thesis on the structure of Jack Benny's comedy routines, and graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in radio and speech with a minor in physics in 1949.
He began his broadcasting career in 1950 at WOW radio and television in Omaha, Nebraska. 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. Carson as a guest on Jack Benny's television program, 1955. Carson in 1957.
In 1951 Carson visited California and unsuccessfully sought work. The wife of one of the political figures he spoofed owned stock in a radio station in Los Angeles and referred Carson to her brother, who was influential in the emerging television market in Southern California, and later that year Carson went to work at CBS-owned Los Angeles television station KNXT. He would later joke that he owed his success to the birds of Omaha. 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. In 1954 Skelton during rehearsal accidentally knocked himself unconscious an hour before his live show began, and Carson successfully filled in for him. In 1955 Jack Benny invited Carson to appear on one of his programs, during the opening and closing segments. Carson imitated Benny and claimed that Benny had copied his gestures. Benny, however, 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 variety show The Johnny Carson Show (1955 1956). He was a regular panelist on the original To Tell the Truth 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?. 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. It was on Who Do You Trust? that Carson met his future sidekick, Ed McMahon. Although he saw moving to daytime as hurting 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 there.
The Tonight Show
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". Tonight was successful, and when Allen moved on to prime-time comedy-variety shows, Jack Paar replaced him as host of Tonight. Paar left the show in 1962.
Johnny Carson's success on 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 105 minutes daily, but NBC asked him again after Bob Newhart, Jackie Gleason, Groucho Marx, and Joey Bishop all declined. Carson accepted in March 1962, but had six months left on his ABC contract, during which NBC used multiple guest hosts including Merv Griffin.
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. While Tonight under its previous hosts had been successful, especially Paar, Carson eventually did well in the ratings. Billy Wilder said of Carson:
McMahon followed Carson from Who Do You Trust? as his announcer and sidekick. McMahon's opening line, "Heeeere'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. Johnny enjoyed what he called the "Carson Kits," or beautiful girls to dress his show. Theona Bryant, a favorite, was a model. The other "Carson Cuties" were Phyllis Applegate, Norma Brooks, and Sally Todd.
Paul Anka wrote the theme song ("Johnny's Theme"), a reworking of his "Toot Sweet", given lyrics, renamed "It's Really Love," and recorded by Annette Funicello in 1959. Before taking over The Tonight Show, Carson wrote lyrics for the song and thus claimed 50 percent of the song's performance royalties (even 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 in 1992.
The show was originally produced in New York City, with occasional stints in California. It was not live in its early years, although during the 1970s, NBC fed the live taping from Burbank to New York via satellite for editing (see below). The program had been done "live on tape" (uninterrupted unless a problem occurred) since the Jack Paar days. Carson had a talent for quick quips to deal with problems. If the opening monologue fared poorly, the band would start playing "Tea for Two" and Carson danced, to laughs from the studio audience. Alternatively, Carson might pull the boom mic close to his face and announce "Attention K-Mart shoppers!"
Move to Burbank
In May 1972, the show moved from New York to Burbank, California. Carson often joked about "beautiful downtown Burbank" and referred to "beautiful downtown Bakersfield," which prompted Mayor Mary K. Shell to chide Carson and invite him to her city to see improvements made during the early 1980s.
After July 1971, Carson stopped doing shows five days a week. Instead, on Monday nights there was a guest host, leaving Carson to do the other four each week. Shows were taped in Burbank at 5:30 pm (8:30 pm Eastern time) to be shown that evening at 11:30 pm Eastern time. On September 8, 1980, at Carson's request, the show cut its 90-minute format to 60 minutes; 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 stated that although other guest hosts upped their fees, he 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.
As Carson's work schedule shortened, Tonight remained so successful for NBC that his compensation continued to rise; by the mid-1970s Carson had become the highest-paid person on television at about $4 million a year ($}} today), not including nightclub appearances and his other businesses. Carson refused many offers to appear in films, including the title role in The Thomas Crown Affair and Gene Wilder's role in Blazing Saddles.
In recognition of his 25th anniversary on The Tonight Show, Carson received a personal Peabody Award, with the Board saying he had "become an American institution, a household word, [and] the most widely quoted American"; they also said they "felt the time had come to recognize the contributions that Johnny has made to television, to humor, and to America."
Carson as the character "Carnac the Magnificent", mid 1970s. Carson played several continuing characters on sketches during the show, including
Art Fern, the "Tea Time Movie" announcer, whose theme song was "Hooray for Hollywood." Carson once admitted on camera that this was his favorite character, based on late-afternoon TV hosts who would deliver commercials throughout the movie. Each sketch usually featured three long commercials interrupted by silent, four-second clips from antique films. When the camera returned from each clip, Art was always caught off-guard and immediately reminded viewers that they were watching a film favorite. The movies always had unlikely casts and even less likely titles: "Slim Pickens, Patti Page, Duke Wayne, and Charlton Heston in another classic Western: 'Kiss My Saddle Horn'!" Carson originally played the fast-talking huckster in his own voice (as Honest Bernie Schlock or Ralph Willie), and finally settled on a nasal, high-pitched, smarmy drone reminiscent of Jackie Gleason's "Reginald Van Gleason III" character. The character, now permanently known as Art Fern, wore a lavish toupee, loud jackets, and a pencil mustache. Actress Carol Wayne became famous for her 100-plus appearances (1971 1982) as Art's buxom assistant, the Matin e Lady. While Art gave his spiel, she would enter the stage behind him. Art would react to her attractive body, wincing loudly, "Ho — leeeee!" After Carol Wayne's death in 1985, Carson kept Art Fern off the air for most of the next year, and finally hired Danuta Wesley and then Teresa Ganzel to play the Matin e Lady. Carson also used these sketches to poke fun at the intricate Los Angeles interstate system, using a pointer and map to give confusing directions to shoppers often including points where he would unfold the cardboard map to point out, via the appropriate picture, when the shopper would arrive at "the fork in the road." Another freeway routine in the same theme centered around the fictional "Slauson Cutoff." Art Fern would advise drivers to take a series of freeways until they reached the Slauson Cutoff, and would then advise them to "Get out of your car, cut off your slauson, get back in your car," often followed by peals of laughter from the audience, led by McMahon.
Carnac the Magnificent, a turbaned psychic who could answer questions before seeing them. (This same routine had been done by Carson's predecessor, Steve Allen, as "The Answer Man." The Carnac character and routine closely resembled Ernie Kovacs' character "Mr. Question Man.") Carnac had a trademark entrance in which he always turned the wrong direction when coming onto stage and then "tripped" on the step up to Carson's desk. (In one episode, technicians rigged Carson's desk to fall apart when Carnac fell into it.) These comedic missteps were an indication of Carnac's true prescient abilities. Ed McMahon would hand Carnac a series of envelopes, said to have been "sitting inside a mayonaisse jar on Funk & Wagnall's porch since noon today," containing questions. Carnac would place each envelope against his forehead and predict the answer, such as "Gatorade." Then he would read the question: "What does an alligator get on welfare?" Some of the jokes were feeble, and McMahon used pauses after terrible puns and audience groans to make light of Carnac's lack of comic success ("Carnac must be used to quiet surroundings"), prompting Carson to return an equal insult. McMahon would always announce near the end, "I hold in my hand the last envelope," at which the audience would applaud wildly, prompting Carnac to pronounce a comedic "curse" on the audience, such as "May your sister elope with a camel!", or the most famous, "may the bird of paradise fly up your nose!".
Floyd R. Turbo, American (with no pause between words). A stereotypical redneck wearing a plaid hunting coat and cap, who offered "editorial responses" to left-leaning causes or news events. Railing against women's rights in the workplace, for example, Turbo would shout, "This raises the question: kiss my Dictaphone!"
Aunt Blabby, a cantankerous and sometimes amorous old lady, invariably being interviewed by straight man Ed McMahon about elder affairs. McMahon would innocently use a common expression like "check out," only to have Aunt Blabby warn him, "Don't say 'check out' to an old person!" Aunt Blabby was an obvious copy of Jonathan Winters most famous creation, Maude Frickert, including her black spinster dress and wig.
El Mouldo, a mentalist, who would attempt to perform mind-reading and mind-over-matter feats, all of which failed. Often his tricks would include an attempt to bilk money from Ed McMahon or would end with him begging the audience for a dollar, or at least bus fare.
The Maharishi, whose theme song was "Song of India". This frizzy-haired "holy man" spoke in a high-pitched, tranquil tone, greeted announcer McMahon with a flower, and answered philosophical questions.
Carson uncensored on satellite
Even though Carson's program was based in Burbank, 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. Beginning 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, however, satellite ground stations owned by private individuals began to appear, and some managed to find 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 landline transmission until the show's editing facilities were finally moved to Burbank.
Effect on popular culture
Carson's show was the launch for many performers, notably comedians. Many got their break on the show, and it was an achievement to get Carson to laugh and be called to the guest chair. Most notable were Jerry Seinfeld, Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Maher, Ellen Degeneres, Tim Allen, Drew Carey, and Roseanne Barr. Carson was successor to The Ed Sullivan Show as a showcase for all kinds of talent, as well as continuing a vaudeville-style variety show.
In 1966, Carson singlehandedly popularized the game Twister when he got down on the floor to play it with Eva Gabor. Previous to their game on television, Twister had languished on Milton Bradley's B-list, but after the broadcast, it took off in popularity.
Controversies and feuds
Carson made several routine jokes at the expense of other celebrities. Some years after a high-profile feud between Carson and Wayne Newton, the latter appeared on Larry King Live, declaring that "Johnny Carson was a mean-spirited human being. And there are people that he has hurt that people will never know about. And for some reason at some point, he decided to turn that kind of negative attention toward me. And I refused to have it."
Carson reportedly loathed what he felt was disloyalty among friends. The comedian was displeased when former Tonight Show guest hosts John Davidson and Joan Rivers got their own talk shows. Rivers' show on the Fox network directly competed with Carson during the 1986-1987 season, and died a quick death. On June 24, 2009, following Ed McMahon's death, Rivers lauded McMahon on Larry King Live but stated that Carson never spoke to her again.
Carson successfully sued a manufacturer of portable toilets who wanted to call its product "Here's Johnny".
Carson was a major investor in the ultimately failed DeLorean Motor Company.
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. Shortly after buying the station, KVVU was rumored to acquiring an NBC affiliation as then long-time affiliate KORK-TV was in the process of being replaced by KVBC, but it never happened. Carson's second station, independent KNAT-TV in Albuquerque, New Mexico was purchased in 1982. Unlike the Las Vegas operation, KNAT faced stiffer competition for top-quality syndicated programming. Carson sold both of his stations between 1985 and 1986, with KVVU going to Meredith Corporation and KNAT being sold to Trinity Broadcasting Network.
Carson's other business ventures included the successful Johnny Carson Apparel, Inc.—his turtlenecks became a fashion trend—and a failed restaurant franchise.
Johnny Carson in the 1990s Carson retired from show business on May 22, 1992, when he stepped down as host of The Tonight Show. His farewell was a major media event, and stretched over several nights. It was often emotional for Carson, his colleagues, and the audiences, particularly the farewell statement he delivered on his 4,531st and final Tonight Show:
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.
Johnny Carson, on a trip to Tanzania in 1994. At the end of his final Tonight Show appearance, Carson indicated that he might, if so inspired, return with a new project, but instead chose to go into full retirement, rarely giving interviews and declining to participate in NBC's 75th anniversary celebrations. He made the occasional cameo appearance, including voicing himself on a 1993 episode of The Simpsons ("Krusty Gets Kancelled"), telephoning David Letterman on a November 1993 episode of Late Show with David Letterman, and appearing in the 1993 NBC Special Bob Hope: The First 90 Years. On May 13, 1994, Carson appeared on Late Show with David Letterman. During a week of shows from Los Angeles, Letterman was having Larry "Bud" Melman (Calvert DeForest) deliver his "Top Ten Lists" under the guise that a famous personality would be delivering the list instead. On the last show of the week, Letterman indicated that Carson would be delivering the list. Instead, DeForest delivered the list, insulted the audience (in keeping with the gag), and walked off to polite applause. Letterman then indicated that the card he was given did not have the proper list on it and asked that the "real" list be brought out. On that cue, the real Johnny Carson emerged from behind the curtain (as Letterman's band played "Johnny's Theme"), an appearance which prompted a standing ovation from the audience. Carson then requested to sit behind Letterman's desk; Letterman obliged, as the audience continued to cheer and applaud. After some moments, Carson departed from the show without having spoken to the audience. He later cited acute laryngitis as the reason for his silence. This night turned out to be Carson's last television appearance.
Just days before Carson's death, it was revealed that he occasionally sent jokes to Letterman. Letterman would then use these jokes in the monologue of his show, which Carson got "a big kick out of" according to Worldwide Pants, Inc., Senior Vice-President Peter Lassally, who formerly produced both men's programs. He also claimed that Carson had always believed Letterman, not Leno, to be his "rightful successor." Letterman frequently employs some of Carson's trademark bits on his show, including "Carnac" (with band leader Paul Shaffer as Carnac), "Stump the Band," and the "Week in Review."
Despite his on-camera demeanor, Carson was very shy off-camera, avoided most large parties, and was referred to as "the most private public man who ever lived". Dick Cavett recalled that "I felt sorry for Johnny in that he was so socially uncomfortable. I've hardly ever met anybody who had as hard a time as he did." George Axelrod said of Carson: "Socially, he doesn t exist. The reason is that there are no television cameras in living rooms. If human beings had little-red lights in the middle of their foreheads, Carson would be the greatest conversationalist on earth."
He normally refused to discuss politics, social controversies, his childhood, or private life with interviewers, and offered the following list of prewritten answers to journalists who wanted to ask him questions:
- Yes, I did.
- Not a bit of truth in that rumor.
- Only twice in my life, both times on Saturday.
- I can do either, but I prefer the first.
- No. Kumquats.
- I can t answer that question.
Toads and tarantulas.
Turkestan, Denmark, Chile, and the Komandorskie Islands.
- As often as possible, but I m not very good at it yet. I need much more practice.
- It happened to some old friends of mine, and it s a story I ll never forget.
Carson opposed capital punishment, favored racial equality, and was against crimininalizing extramarital sex and pornography. He avoided explicitly mentioning his views on Tonight, however, saying "I hate to be pinned down" as that would "hurt me as an entertainer, which is what I am".
In 1948, Carson married Jody Wolcott. The marriage was volatile, with infidelities by both parties, finally ending in divorce. In 1963, Carson got a "quickie" Mexican divorce from Wolcott and married Joanne Copeland on August 17, 1963. After a protracted divorce in 1972, Copeland received nearly half a million dollars in cash and art, and $100,000 a year in alimony for life.
At the Carson Tonight Show 10th anniversary party on September 30, 1972, Carson announced that he and former model Joanna Holland had been secretly married that afternoon, shocking his friends and associates. Carson kidded that he had married three similarly named women to avoid "having to change the monogram on the towels." A similar joke was made by Bob Newhart during Carson's roast by Dean Martin. On March 8, 1983, Holland filed for divorce. Under California's community property laws, she was entitled to 50 percent of all the assets accumulated during the marriage, even though Carson earned virtually 100 percent 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." The divorce case finally ended in 1985 with an 80-page settlement, Holland receiving $20 million in cash and property.
On June 20, 1987, Carson married Alexis Maas. The marriage lasted until his death in 2005.
Carson reading a story to his three sons in 1955. From left: Kit, Cory, and Ricky. Carson had three sons. Richard Carson, his son from his first marriage, died on June 21, 1991, when his car plunged down a steep embankment along a paved service road off Highway 1 near Cayucos, a small town north of San Luis Obispo, California. Apparently, Richard had been taking photographs when the accident occurred. On the first Tonight Show after Ricky's death, Carson gave a tribute in the final minutes of his show as samples of his son's photographic work (and images of Ricky, himself) were displayed with the music accompaniment of Riviera Paradise by blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan. In addition, the final image — as well as some "More to Come" bumpers — of Carson's last show that aired May 22, 1992 featured a photo Richard had taken.
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 Theatre Arts, which created the Johnny Carson School of Theatre 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.
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. Carson's foundation was now by far the biggest of Hollywood charities.
Carson, an amateur astronomer, was close friends with astronomer Carl Sagan, who often appeared on The Tonight Show. The unique way Sagan had of saying certain words, like "billions" of galaxies, would lead to Carson ribbing his friend, imitating his voice and saying "BILL-ions and BILL-ions", a phrase attributed to Sagan. Carson was the first person to contact Sagan's wife Ann Druyan with condolences when the scientist died in 1996. He owned several telescopes, including a Questar, considered at the time a top-of-the line telescope.
Carson was shown on a 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. Writer Gore Vidal, another frequent Tonight Show guest and friend, writes about Carson's personality in his 2006 memoirs.
In 1982, Carson was found to be driving his DeLorean while under the influence of alcohol. He pled nolo contendere to a misdemeanor charge and given three years of 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.
Death and tributes
Johnny Carson's Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame On March 19, 1999, Carson, then 73, suffered a severe heart attack at his home in Malibu, California. Carson was sleeping when he suddenly awoke with severe chest pains. He was rushed to a hospital in nearby Santa Monica where he underwent quadruple-bypass surgery.
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. He was 79 years old. Carson had revealed his terminal illness to the public in September 2002. Following Carson's death his body was cremated, and the ashes were given to his wife. In accordance with his family's wishes, no public memorial service was held. There were numerous tributes paid to Carson upon his death, including a statement by then President George W. Bush, recognizing the deep and enduring affection held for him.
On January 24, 2005, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno paid tribute to Carson with guests Ed McMahon, Bob Newhart, Don Rickles, Drew Carey and k.d. lang. Letterman followed suit on January 31 with former Tonight Show executive producer Peter Lassally and bandleader Doc Severinsen. During the beginning of this show, Letterman said that for 30 years no matter what was going on in the world, no matter whether people had a good or bad day, they wanted to end the day by being "tucked in by Johnny." Letterman also told his viewers that the monologue he had just given (which had been very well received by the studio audience) had 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 one of Carson's two favorite songs, "Here's That Rainy Day" (the other was "I'll Be Seeing You"). It had been reported over the decades of Carson's fame that he was, off-camera, so intensely private that he had never once invited McMahon to his home. After Carson's death, though, McMahon disputed those rumors and claimed that a close friendship existed. On his final Tonight Show appearance, Carson himself said that while sometimes people who work together for long stretches of time on television don't necessarily like each other, this was not the case with him and McMahon: They were good friends who would have dinner together, and the camaraderie that they had on the show could not be faked. Carson and McMahon were friends for forty-six years.
The 2005 film The Aristocrats was dedicated to Carson.
At the 1st Annual Comedy Awards on Comedy Central, the Johnny Carson Award was given to David Letterman.
Accounts on work and life
Humor material collections
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