Since 1954, “The Tonight Show” has been connecting comedians with some of the most iconic figures of the entertainment world. From there, viewers at home get to stay up-to-date and entertained.
The first host of the show was Steve Allen and was followed by Jack Paar. Right now, Jimmy Fallon is the face of “The Tonight Show.”
Johnny Carson began his stint as the host in 1962. He is the longest-serving host to date but is not the host with the most episodes. Carson was the host of the show, deemed “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,” for 30 seasons. His show was based in New York City for the first decade on air. After that, the show moves to Burbank, California, into Studio One of NBC Studios for the rest of his hosting career.
Carson helped launch the career of Jerry Seinfeld, Tim Allen, David Letterman, Joan Rivers, Drew Carey, and Jeff Foxworthy.
On May 22, 1992, Carson called it quits after three decades of hosting and was replaced by Jay Leno. Fans were sad to see Carson retire at 66. He had long charmed millions of at-home viewers with his sharp humor.
“The great audience Carson aimed to entertain is splintering up into factions, and no single performer is ever likely to be as dominant as he has been. … Mr. Mainstream will be taking the mainstream with him,” TV critic Tom Shales wrote in The Washington Post in 1992.
Carson entertained over 7 million people every night. He also earned NBC more than $50 million a year.
Johnny Carson Was An Iconic TV Personality
Besides being entertaining and loved by audiences, the network adored Johnny Carson as well. He had a lucrative deal with NBC that allowed him to walk away with a lot of money each year. In fact, it was one of the richest deals ever offered to an individual in TV history. Carson got a salary of $25 million a year. He was on TV one hour each night, three nights a week, and had to work only 37 weeks of the year.
Eventually, he also became the owner and producer of “The Tonight Show.” He created “Carson’s Comedy Classics” from old “The Tonight Show” episodes. He owned all episodes starting in 1962. Carson Productions also owned the slot directly after “The Tonight Show.”
He also had a massive impact on popular culture from his stint on “The Tonight Show.” A game of Twister with Eva Gabor helped increase sales of the new game on the market. He once joked about a toilet paper shortage in 1973, which led to panic buying across the country.
Johnny Carson remained the staple icon for “The Tonight Show.” Sadly, he passed away in 2005.