JOHNNY CARSON’S 30--YEAR REIGN : Significant Moments

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Here are some of the significant events during Johnny Carson’s nearly 30-year run as host of “The Tonight Show”:

1962--Show debuts Oct. 1 from New York City with guests Groucho Marx, Mel Brooks, Joan Crawford, Rudy Vallee and Tony Bennett. The show runs one hour, 45 minutes. Ed McMahon is the sideman; Skitch Henderson leads the orchestra.

1964--Debut of Carson’s skit characters Carnac the Magnificent and Aunt Blabby. One of the longest sustained laughs in television history when Ed Ames, demonstrating how to throw a tomahawk, hits a cardboard dummy in the crotch.


1966--Debut of the Mighty Carson Art Players. Milton Delugg becomes music conductor.

1967--Show is reduced to 90 minutes. Doc Severinsen becomes music conductor. Debuts of Carson characters Carswell the Psychic and the Great Carsoni.

1968--Tommy Newsom is named assistant music director. Debut of Carson yogi character Faharishi.

1969--Dec. 17 show featuring the live, on-stage wedding of Tiny Tim and Miss Vicki is seen by more than 45 million viewers, making it the most-watched Carson show ever.

1970--Fred de Cordova joins the show as producer. He later becomes executive producer.

1971--Debut of Carson character Art Fern and his “Tea Time Movie.”

1972--Show moves from New York to Burbank.

1977--Debut of Carson superpatriot character Floyd R. Turbo.

1980--Show is reduced to one hour.

1983--Joan Rivers is named exclusive guest host.

1986--Jay Leno is named one of several guest hosts after Joan Rivers quits to start her own show.

1987--”Tonight Show” orchestra receives a Grammy Award. Jay Leno is named exclusive guest host. Carson is inducted into Hall of Fame by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

1991--Carson announces his final date as host will be May 22, 1992. Jay Leno is named to succeed him, beginning May 25.


The Guests Who were the most frequent guests during Carson’s tenure? The top 10, with the number of appearances: 1. Bob Hope: 131 2. Joan Rivers: 105 3. David Steinberg: 105 4. Tony Randall: 104 5. Charles Nelson Reilly: 97 6. Orson Bean: 93 7. Joyce Brothers: 90 8. Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme: 86 9. Buddy Hackett: 78 10.Don Rickles: 75

Top Shows

The five highest-rated editions of “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson”:

1. Tiny Tim marries Miss Vicki, 1969; 21.4 million homes watch.

2. Glenn Campbell, Dom DeLuise and Susan Anton guest, 1976; 9.4 million homes.

3. Don Rickles guests, 1980; 9.3 million homes.

4. Barry Manilow, Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd and David Letterman guest, 1985; 9.2 million homes.

5. Bob Hope and Angie Dickinson guest, 1977; 9.2 million homes.

Late-Night Casualties

Many have tried to go up against Johnny Carson over the last 30 years. Most have failed. Here are the casualties:

* “The Joey Bishop Show,” ABC; May, 1967-December, 1969; averaged a 3.7 Nielsen rating compared to Carson’s 7.3 rating for the same period.

* “The Merv Griffin Show,” CBS; August, 1969-February, 1972; averaged a 4.5 to Carson’s 7.5.

* “The Dick Cavett Show,” ABC; January, 1973-December, 1974; averaged a 3.4 to Carson’s 7.9.


* “Thicke of the Night,” hosted by Alan Thicke, syndicated; September, 1983-September, 1984; averaged a 1.0 to Carson’s 6.6.

* “The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers,” Fox; October, 1986-May, 1987; averaged a 2.6 to Carson’s 7.0.

* “The Pat Sajak Show,” CBS; January, 1989-April, 1990; averaged a 3.0 to Carson’s 5.5.

* “The Ron Reagan Show,” syndicated; August, 1991-December, 1991; averaged a 0.8 to Carson’s 5.0.

Current Competition:

* “The Arsenio Hall Show,” syndicated, debuted January, 1989; averaging a 3.2 to Carson’s 5.2.

* “The Dennis Miller Show,” syndicated, debuted January, 1992; averaging a 1.7 to Carson’s 5.2.