Skip to main content

Carson, Johnny (1925–)

Johnny Carson (1925–)

Johnny Carson, who hosted The Tonight Show (see entry under 1950s—TV and Radio in volume 3) on NBC from 1962 until 1992, was the undisputed king of late-night television (see entry under 1940s—TV and Radio in volume 3) and one of the medium's most successful personalities. Carson combined Midwestern charm, a slightly naughty wit, and expert interviewing skills as he welcomed the nation's top celebrities, funniest comedians, and interesting ordinary citizens onto his program.

Each installment of The Tonight Show began with Carson's introduction by his longtime sidekick Ed McMahon (1923–): "Heeeeere's Johnny!" The show began with a comic monologue—a comic routine presented by Carson, by himself on stage—that allowed Carson to poke fun at the day's events. The monologue always ended with Carson's trademark gesture: He would pretend he was swinging a golf club. Carson then sat at his desk and performed comic bits or character sketches. Finally, he interviewed celebrities or hosted performing acts. One of the most noteworthy shows occurred on December 17, 1969, when thirty-seven-year-old singer Tiny Tim (Herbert Khaury, 1932–1996) married seventeen-year-old Miss Vicky (Victoria May Budinger; 1952–) live on TV.

Many late-night programs challenged Carson over the years, but none proved successful. When Carson retired in 1992, comedian Jay Leno (1950–) became host of The Tonight Show.David Letterman (see entry under 1980s—TV and Radio in volume 5), who had hoped to succeed Carson, took his show (which had followed Carson's in the late-night lineup) over to CBS to compete against Leno. Johnny Carson set the standard for late-night network programming and influenced Leno, Letterman, and all the hosts who have followed him into the genre (category) of late-night TV.

—Charles Coletta

For More Information

Cox, Stephen. Here's Johnny: Thirty Years of America's Favorite LateNight Entertainment. New York: Harmony Books, 1992.

Here's Johnny! The Official Tonight Show Website. (accessed March 11, 2002).

The King of Late Night! (video). Buena Vista Home Video, 1994.

Leamer, Laurence. King of the Night: The Life of Johnny Carson. New York: Morrow, 1989.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Carson, Johnny (1925–)." Bowling, Beatniks, and Bell-Bottoms: Pop Culture of 20th-Century America. . 23 Apr. 2019 <>.

"Carson, Johnny (1925–)." Bowling, Beatniks, and Bell-Bottoms: Pop Culture of 20th-Century America. . (April 23, 2019).

"Carson, Johnny (1925–)." Bowling, Beatniks, and Bell-Bottoms: Pop Culture of 20th-Century America. . Retrieved April 23, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.