Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” is once more flourishing on Late-night TV

Herbie J Pilato
6 min readDec 27, 2018

Johnny Carson, once crowned the “King of Late Night Television,” is still killing it with his loyal viewing subjects.

For the past few years, Antenna TV has been televising select episodes of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

Johnny’s historic edition of The Tonight Show (which was first hosted by Steve Allen and Jack Paar), originally aired on NBC from October 1, 1962 to Carson’s retirement on May 22, 1992 (and was initially broadcast from New York before he relocated to Burbank in 1972).

In the realm of talk show hosts, male or female, late-night, daytime or otherwise, Carson stood out from the pack. Following a four-year stint as the initial host of the game show, Who Do You Trust? (ABC, 1957–1963 — Woody Woodbury took over as after Johnny left in 1962), Carson went on to commandeer The Tonight Show with his trademark sense of style, sophistication, and humor like no other before or since.

The pencil-tapping, the Johnny Carson coffee mugs, and the Johnny Carson mugging, the double-takes into the camera, all of it and more became the stuff of legends, along with the reverence for his guests.

Each show opened with the rousing musical rendition of The Tonight Show theme (composed by Paul Anka and performed by Doc Severinson and The Tonight Show Orchestra), followed by equally famous “Here’s Johnny” introduction by Ed McMahon, Carson’s right-hand man, loyal friend, and former co-host of Who Do You Trust?.

With shoulders back, a stoic stance, bravado, and confidence extraordinaire, the talk-fest icon then took over with his one-of-a-kind monologue (“Attention: K-Mart shoppers!”), then periodically appeared in legendary skits featuring character creations, including Art Fern (the “Tea Time” movie announcer), Carnac the Magnificent (the flippant psychic who answered questions before they were asked), and Aunt Blabby (a crusty female senior), each of whom interacted with or played off of McMahon.

After that, however, it was all about the guests, be they celebrities, comedians, everyday folks, or animals, the latter of which were gathered from the San Diego Zoo for what became some of the most popular segments in Tonight Show history.

Herbie J Pilato

Herbie J Pilato is a writer, producer, and TV personality whose books about life and pop culture include THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS.