14 Facts You May Not Know About Johnny Carson

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website or at Facebook.

Incredible as it may seem to all of us Johnny Carson fans, it has now been 25 years since Johnny Carson last hosted The Tonight Show. On May 22, 1992, Johnny hosted his 4,531st and final Tonight Show. As over 50 million viewers tuned in, there were no guests that night, and Johnny sat alone on a stool and conducted a retrospective hour and said a heartfelt final goodbye to his fans.

Since Johnny's retirement, as all the other talk show hosts will freely admit, Johnny has been irreplaceable and remains the #1 most beloved talk show host in the history of television. Let's take a look at a few little-known facts about Johnny Carson.
1. He started out in show business as a magician, calling himself "the great Carsoni."

2. Early in his career, Johnny also worked as a ventriloquist. His dummy's name was "Eddie."

3. While serving in the Navy, Johnny's biggest moment was filling in for Rita Hayworth during a magic show given by Orson Welles and letting Welles saw him in half.

4. Johnny was 10 and 0 as an amateur boxer during his Navy service during World War II.

5. Johnny co-wrote the familiar Tonight Show theme with Paul Anka. Anka wrote the music, Johnny wrote the lyrics. Although the lyrics were never used during the show's run, Johnny collected 50% of the residual payments. The song was known as "Johnny's theme."

6. When asked who he most wanted as a guest on The Tonight Show, Johnny replied "Cary Grant." Grant never did show up as a guest.

7. He was an expert drummer. Johnny once appeared on The New American Bandstand and stood in for the drummer.

8. In 1966, Johnny single-handedly helped popularize the new board game Twister, when he played a round of the game with Eva Gabor on the show. Sales of "twister" soon skyrocketed.

9. Johnny was originally considered by Carl Reiner for the Rob Petrie role in what later became The Dick Van Dyke Show.

10. He was also considered for the role of "Cookie" in the 1960 Elvis Presley film G.I. Blues.

11. Johnny was offered Harvey Korman's role as Hedley Lamar in Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles. He turned the role down.

12. Johnny appeared in only one actual movie during his entire career. 1964's Looking for Love starring Connie Francis.

13. After his retirement, he taught himself Swahili, which he used to communicate during several trips to Africa.

14. He did not speak during his final public appearance. In 1994, he made a guest appearance on Late Night with David Letterman. Upon seeing him, the audience went crazy and gave Johnny an almost two-minute standing ovation. Johnny simply got up and walked off the stage. He later claimed he had a case of "acute laryngitis."

(YouTube link)

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I grew up in the 60s and watched Carson nearly every evening with the family. He had a unique talent and was in tune with the times. He was, however by later accounts, a somewhat petty man who held grudges. He was also a failure as a man, with his children, many ex-wives and even his few friends. Upon retirement he headed the list of Most Hated Men in Hollywood. He was also cheap. He died on his yacht from heart failure, absent friends and family and only with hired staff. His closest longtime friend broke with him years earlier and later wrote a candid, critical biography. He was a great talent but a poor human being. Sometimes that is the case. He wouldn't fare well today, as he was too white bread for our times. Still very clever and talented.
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I found Carson offensive many times. For 2 or 3 years he continually told Polish jokes. He also despised Wayne Newton and bashed him mercilessly until Newton stormed into his office, leaped over Carson's desk, grabbed him by his lapels and yelled :"What the h... did I do to make you constantly pick on and ridicule me?" Carson never picked on Newton again.
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My favorite Carson interview question was when after naming Jay Leno as his replacement, he had David Letterman on one last time and opened the interview by asking him "So just how pissed off are you?". I really do miss the REAL Tonight Show.
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