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John William Carson was an American comedian, writer, talk show host, and producer, widely celebrated for 'The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson', which he hosted for 30 years from 1962 to 1992.
During his stint, Carson was proactive in kickstarting the spheres of famous future comedians like David Letterman, Jerry Seinfeld, and Jay Leno. Such up-and-coming stars craved Johnny's invitation, as it would open up newer opportunities for them.
Before embarking upon his comedy career, Carson was posted in the Navy. When World War II ended, he was assigned to the USS Pennsylvania, but he never got to witness the combat as it ended when he was on his way to the combat zone. When asked by Forrestal, the Secretary, if he would continue to stay in the Navy after the war, he said that he wanted to become a magician and even showed him a card trick. At this moment, he realized he was meant for entertaining and amusing people, as he could do the same to someone as prim and proper as Forrestal. Moreover, he was 12 when he came across magic tricks and started practicing, leading him to debut as 'The Great Carsoni' at a local hangout called Kiwanis Club.
Carson was estimated to have a net worth of $300 million at his death.
The value of his trust was unknown for a long time. In 2010, it was discovered that The Johnny Carson Foundation trust fund was worth $156 million. Some years later, the fund's value burgeoned to over $200 million.
In the mid-1970s show business, Carson became the highest-paid television personality, earning approximately $4 million per year. When the show peaked in 1991, he earned $25 million yearly.
Carson had a height of 5 ft 10 in (178 cm).
Carson was born on October 23, 1925, and died due to respiratory failure on January 23, 2005. He was 80 at the time of his death.
Carson was born in Corning, Iowa, to parents Ruth Hook, a homemaker, and Homer Lee Carson, a manager at a power company. He was not the only child and had a younger brother, Richard, and an elder sister, Catherine. Richard is a television director and has won an Emmy. When Carson was eight, they shifted to Norfolk, Nebraska, and he began pursuing entertainment in various forms.
Carson was an alumnus of the University of Nebraska - Lincoln, where he was a Phi Gamma Delta community member. Although he enrolled with a major in journalism to become a comedy writer, he later switched to speech and drama because he wanted to become a radio performer. So, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Radio and Speech with a minor in Physics.
Carson was married four times. First, he married Joan Morrill (Jody) Wolcott in 1949 and had three sons with her. Then, he married Joanne Copeland in 1963, Joanna Holland in 1972, and Alexandra (Alexis) Maas in 1987.
His three sons are Richard Carson, Cory Carson, and Kit Carson.
Carson is best known for hosting the famous 'The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,' which ran for 30 years.
Carson started his broadcasting career at Omaha's WOW Radio in 1950, where he soon hosted a morning TV show called 'The Squirrel's Nest'. Also, he was responsible for hosting a low-budget sketch on Los Angeles TV Station KNXT, which went by the name 'Carson's Cellar'. This helped him get a writing job on 'The Red Skelton Show'. He even covered for Skelton on a live show when he got blacked out on the set during rehearsal. This led to CBS creating 'The Johnny Carson Show', with a short tenure from 1955-1956. Before this, he was the host of 'Earn Your Vacation' aired in 1954. Later, from 1961 to 1962, he was seen regularly as a panel member on 'To Tell the Truth'. He, however, got his major break when 'The Johnny Carson Show' ended, as he shifted to New York City and was a host on 'Who Do You Trust?'. He got acquainted with Ed McMahon, his future 'Tonight Show' sidekick.
NBC started its 'Tonight Show' in 1954 with host Steve Allen. Then, in 1956, he was replaced by Jack Paar before Carson assumed office. After Carson started hosting the show on October 1, 1962, the show got rebranded as 'The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson'. Ed McMahon became his sidekick and announcer, whereas the NBC orchestra and Skitch Henderson were responsible for the show's music. 'The Tonight Show' under him could be considered; it is credited to have established the late-night talk show structure, which includes a monologue before interviews, a sketch comedy, and a stand-up skit or a musical. From July 1971, Carson stopped working five days a week and instead worked four days a week. This allowed guest hosts to take over on Mondays. Almost a year later, in May 1972, the studio where the show was filmed was shifted to Burbank, California, where it continued to persist until Jimmy Fallon took over in 2014. 'The Tonight Show' initially aired for 90 minutes. But in 1980, Carson requested it to be changed to a 60-minute show.
Carson retired on May 22, 1992, and he was 66 at that time. In his second last show, Bette Midler and Robin Williams appeared, whereas the finale was a show of memorable clips from his tenure.
During his stint, Carson created several characters like Art Fern (the Tea Time Movie announcer), Carnac the Magnificent (the turbaned psychic), Floyd R Turbo American (a stereotypical commoner), Aunt Blabby (a cantankerous old lady who Ed McMahon interviewed), Mouldo (a mentalist), and Maharishi (a pious guru).
In 1980, Carson chose not to acquire the Aladdin Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, ultimately owned by Wayne Newton. As a result, the media often mocked him, making him tell jokes about Newton on his show. Subsequently, this led to a feud between the two, and on Larry King Live, Newton said that Carson liked to hurt people's feelings. He even confronted Carson at his NBC Studio office, where he threatened to beat Carson up if he did not stop with the jokes. Carson did stop but only after laughing at him.
Throughout his life, Carson donated millions of dollars to several charitable foundations, but in private. Upon his death, he left most of his wealth to the John W. Carson Foundation, and before that, he diligently gave annual gifts of $ 1-2 million to his foundation.
Johnny's will mentioned a donation of $4 million to the Los Angeles Children's Hospital.
Carson had received Primetime Emmy Award six times during his career. He also received the Television Academy's 1980 Governor's Award and a 1985 Peabody Award. In 1987, he got inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Television Academy. In 1992, he became a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He also received the Kennedy Center Honor in 1993.
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