From the Archives: Johnny Carson on ‘The Tonight Show’

Sept. 15, 1982: During a taping of "The Tonight Show," Johnny Carson gets a laugh with 7-year-old actress Kaleena Kiff.
(Gary Freidman / Los Angeles Times)

In 1982, Johnny Carson was the undisputed king of late-night television. Two years earlier, a new contract with NBC gave Carson a substantial raise and shortened the 90-minute show to 60 minutes.

This photo by Gary Friedman accompanied an in-depth story in the Sept. 17, 1982, Los Angeles Times that reported:

Carson, who’ll be 57 next month, is approaching his 20th anniversary as “Tonight Show” host. Sitting in his NBC office this week, smoking a lot of Pall Malls, he considered his reign as king of late-night television, and discussed the status of the realm.


Carson is firmly competitive about “Tonight.”

“Well, we’ve been on for 20 years,” he said. “The ratings are still good. We’re not running second or third (among network programs). If I was running second or third, I would not continue this show under any circumstances. I don’t want to be second or third. I’d quit.”

Carson first hosted “The Tonight Show” on Oct. 1, 1962. He left on May 22, 1992.

In 1982, he interviewed Kaleena Kiff, who was appearing in the NBC comedy “Love, Sidney.”

Below are two portraits of Johnny Carson taken during the same taping.

Sept. 15, 1982: Johnny Carson during a taping of "The Tonight Show."
(Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

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