Tim Allen Reflects on Performing on ‘The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson’

by Jacklyn Krol

Tim Allen‘s major goal was to be on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson. However, things didn’t go as planned.

In an interview with Pioneers of Television, the comedian discussed his experience attempting to get onto the coveted show. He had a goal of getting on and then being invited to sit by his desk. Carson would often invite comedians to chat if he enjoyed their performance, his seal of approval.

“So I focused on that [goal],” he told the outlet. “That’s another one of the lessons of highly successful people they stay focused on their goal and in many cases it may not happen when you want it or how you want it. But it’s going to happen. You keep focused on it.”

He compared it to racecar driving where you focus on a wall that you don’t want to hit, oppositely similar to that.

“I got on Johnny Carson and the pictures are in my office here somewhere. It’s one of my favorite things in my collection and I didn’t do it the way I wanted. It’s nothing to how I wanted it to go,” Tim Allen explained.

Part of his dream panned out after a lot of work towards his dream.

“I wanted to be recognized as of the better stand-up comedians,” he continued. “I was definitely on par with the guys that were on that show that had that much success.”

Ji McCauley, the talent coordinator for the show would show up at Allen’s stand-up gigs during the end of his act. He would often “get a little blue” and “impish” while in the show and that’s part of a bit. He would always come in during that part and said that you can’t do that on television.

“I know but you missed the first eight television acts,” Allen joked. “A clean eight or a clean five he missed it every single time he came to see me.”

Tim Allen and His Redemption

When his hit show Home Improvement became number one in the second season, things changed. During the show’s first year, they followed Roseanne and even opened up for her live on tour. They then asked for him to be on the show but he was considered a “TV guy” not a stand-up comedian.

“[The talent coordinator said] if you want to come on you can do comedy you don’t have to you’re going to sit down. I said I want to just at least go through the motions with this.”

In his own words, he “bombed” his performance. He forgot his glasses which meant that he couldn’t see the teleprompter or really see anything with the lights.

“I had no idea where he was pointing so when they opened the curtain I walked out and stopped and there’s booms moving and cameras adjusting because I didn’t move,” he explained. The complication and the fact that he couldn’t see really got him off on the wrong foot.

“I just died i mean it was just death,” he admitted. “In between the break, he [Carson] said you got to be funnier than that and I said yeah I stumbled on this.” He told Carson about his glasses and the situation. Sadly, his performance with Carson would be his first and last for comedy. Just three weeks after his appearance, Carson retired. However, he still did have another appearance and he would be sitting in the coveted chair to promote his show.

“He said look we’ll move somebody come back next week and do what you want to do,” Tim Allen added. “I came back the next week and drilled it and I drilled it and it was oh my dream come true. But it was kind of phony because I was going to be on the show anyway. There was no risk of me not having the Johnny wave over. They want to do it.”