Carson, Johnny

Carson, Johnny

Carson, Johnny, 1925–2005, American television entertainer, b. Corning, Iowa. Carson, who grew up in Nebraska, began his career as a magician, then wrote comedy sketches for radio and hosted daytime television quiz shows. From 1962 to 1992 he hosted “The Tonight Show,” where the personable demeanor and wry humor he displayed in his monologues, comedy sketches, and interviews were vital to making it America's most popular late-night program.


See H. Bushkin, Johnny Carson (2013)

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Carson, (John William) Johnny

(1925–  ) television talk show host; born in Corning, Iowa. Raised in Nebraska, he sent away for a magic kit at age 12, and "The Great Carsoni" gave his first performance two years later. After serving in the U.S. Navy (1943–46), he graduated from the University of Nebraska (1949) and went to work in radio in California (1950), where he worked for various radio and television shows. Moving to New York City in 1956, he hosted the television quiz show Who Do You Trust? (1958–63), making it ABC's top daytime program. He first appeared on the Tonight Show in 1958, and as permanent host from 1962 to 1992, he turned it into one of National Broadcasting Company's biggest moneymakers. His talk show personality combined midwestern innocence with cosmopolitan wit. He portrayed a series of outrageous American types in occasional skits but the program's appeal was its familiar formula: sidekick Ed McMahon introduced him by announcing, "Heeere's Johnny!"; then Carson did a monologue followed by guest interviews—usually showbiz celebrities—punctuated by Doc Severinsen's music. In private life, Carson was almost the opposite of his spontaneous, charming onstage personality; he was married four times and was reputed to be rather distant, even cool in his dealings with most people. He formed his own production group in 1980 and became immensely wealthy from his own and other shows, and by the time he retired in 1992, he was almost regarded as a national institution.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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