The 30-year run of Johnny Carson as host of The Tonight Show was both memorable and historic. It was the setting for a number of classic TV moments remembered by television watchers of several generations. Though many people remember Carson for his hilarious characters and skits,
he was not one to shy away from controversial topics when it was something that he truly believed in.
Many of his best-known moments have been captured on various classic TV DVD’s,
enabling fans of Carson to watch their favorite bits over and over again.
One of Johnny Carsons best known moments, one that demonstrated to the world just how quick his wit really was, happened two years after he began his run on The Tonight Show.
On April 29, 1965, Ed Ames of the Daniel Boone television series was Carsons guest. Ames was demonstrating how to throw a tomahawk using a wooden silhouette of a man,
and when he threw the tomahawk it landed squarely in the silhouettes crotch.
As the crowd laughed, Carson quipped, I didnt even know you were Jewish. This piece of classic television comedy was so popular that it was often replayed on the shows anniversary.
classic moments on The Tonight Show
Other classic moments on The Tonight Show revolved around some of the recurring characters that Johnny Carson portrayed, often with the help of Ed McMahon.
Quite possibly the most famous of these classic television characters was Carnac the Magnificent, a mentalist played by Carson
who would claim to be able to answer questions sealed in envelopes without ever seeing the question. The answers, of course, would never be straight answers and would instead be puns.
When the audience didnt like one of the jokes, he would respond with equally outlandish curses, such as May a diseased yak befriend your sister. Carson had a number of other popular characters as well, such as Floyd R. Turbo, Ralph Willie, and Aunt Blabby.
Not all of the comedy sketches that Carson did contained these repeating characters. There were a number of one-shot skits which appeared on the classic television show,
including Carsons portrayal of Hamlet delivering the famous To be or not to be soliloquy.
In the Johnny Carson version, however, were a number of product advertisements which flowed directly from the famous Shakespearean lines to create one of the funniest portrayals of the play to date.
his show as a means of exposing scams and fakes
In addition to providing laughs and unexpected punchlines, Carson would from time to time use his show as a means of exposing scams and fakes who were taking advantage of the public at large. Famed psychic Uri Gellar appeared on the show in 1973.
Carson himself set up the props for Gellars act without Gellar or his manager being able to see them before filming.
Despite Gellars claims of having genuine mental powers, he was unable to reproduce his usual tricks with the props that Carson provided.
Other classic TV moments on The Tonight Show included visits from zoologists such as Joan Embery and Jim Fowler. They brought animals which Carson would often interact with in some way; many episodes featured Carson being crawled on by smaller animals.
famous incident often shows a clip Carson leaning close to a cage caused the cat to swipe him with its paw. Carson ran across the stage and jumped into Ed McMahons arms for comedic effect.
His final episodes were considered major events When Johnny Carson retired
The most sentimental moment came on the next-to-last of his episodes. Bette Midler and Robin Williams were his guests. After Carson revealed in conversation some of his favorite songs, Midler began to sing one. The song soon became a duet between her and Carson. She finished her appearance by singing One for My Baby (and One More for the Road). An emotional Carson began to tear up on camera. One of his most emotional classic moments became a historic milestone in late night television filming.
Carson was an amazing entertainer, a charismatic personality and a moment maker.
His appeal as a celebrity and comedian carries on to future generations as classic television shows become available on DVD.