Johnny Carson Dies at 79

Johnny Carson, late-night TV legend, dead at 79 (CNN)

Johnny Carson, late-night TV legend, dead at 79 Johnny Carson, the “Tonight Show” TV host who served America a smooth nightcap of celebrity banter, droll comedy and heartland charm for 30 years, has died. He was 79. “Mr. Carson passed away peacefully early Sunday morning,” his nephew, Jeff Sotzing, told The Associated Press. “He was surrounded by his family, whose loss will be immeasurable. There will be no memorial service.” Sotzing would not give further details, including the time of death or the location.

The boyish-looking Nebraska native with the disarming grin, who survived every attempt to topple him from his late-night talk show throne, was a star who managed never to distance himself from his audience. His wealth, the adoration of his guests — particularly the many young comics whose careers he launched — the wry tales of multiple divorces: Carson’s air of modesty made it all serve to enhance his bedtime intimacy with viewers.

“Heeeeere’s Johnny!” was the booming announcement from sidekick Ed McMahon that ushered Carson out to the stage. Then the formula: the topical monologue, the guests, the broadly played skits such as “Carnac the Magnificent. But America never tired of him; Carson went out on top when he retired in May 1992. In his final show, he told his audience: “And so it has come to this. I am one of the lucky people in the world. I found something that I always wanted to do and I have enjoyed every single minute of it.”

A true shame. Carson was easily the best all-around talk show host I ever saw. He seemed to make it a point to make his guests look good rather than simply trying to use them to make jokes. I doubt anyone will ever do it better.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Retread says:

    Just a few days ago I saw a crawler on Fox that he sometimes wrote jokes for Letterman!

    He was adept at making his guests look good, and seemed to be having fun, too. Well, except some of those zoo animal visits. Heh.

  2. denise says:

    He did make his guests look good, but never by sucking up like his successor does so shamelessly.

  3. McGehee says:

    I used to watch late-night television, but along about 1992 I stopped…