‘NCIS’ Star Mark Harmon Recalled Epic Story Meeting George Carlin on ‘The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson’

by Joe Rutland
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Imagine meeting one of your heroes from the entertainment industry. “NCIS” star Mark Harmon recalls having that occur.

But where it happened, though, is quite unique. Harmon appears on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” on Aug. 24, 1988, and ends up with a story of a lifetime. The “NCIS” star was on there to talk about his movie, “Stealing Home.”

“They had this comic on there that I didn’t know was and he was a comic that I really loved,” Harmon says in a 2019 appearance on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” “And I walked out and he was sitting in the seat here (pointing to his right). I was behind the curtain and I didn’t know he was there. I walked out and I just couldn’t believe he was here because I knew all his albums.”

‘NCIS’ Star Is Asked By Colbert To Tell One Of Comedian’s Jokes

“Who was it?” Colbert asks. After a long pause, Colbert says, “Tell me one of his jokes.”

“We’re both Catholics, you and me, and every Catholic kid that I know…,” Harmon, who plays Leroy Jethro Gibbs on “NCIS” says.

“It was George Carlin,” Colbert replies. Harmon nods that yes, indeed, it was the comedy legend himself.

“Well I’d never met him either,” Harmon says. “I’d worked his concerts and things in college and he was sitting there and I just, Carson was where you are, and I just couldn’t believe it was George Carlin.”

Harmon Finds Himself Appearing At Same Time With Carlin, Carson

Carlin, who died on June 22, 2008, at 71 years old, was known for his brash-yet-acerbic wit and comedy. Carlin, who started out as a clean-cut comic, would change his course and look in the 1970s. He also would sell millions of records. Some of them were titled “Class Clown,” “FM & AM,” and “Occupation: Foole.” He also raised the ire of many with his “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” routine.

So you have a younger Mark Harmon sitting next to George Carlin on his right and Johnny Carson on his left. That’s a great memory to hold onto for the “NCIS” star.

The fact that his show will be coming back for another season this fall on CBS is a testament to Harmon and the cast’s hard work.

In a 2017 interview with ET Canada, Harmon was asked whether or not he thought “NCIS” would make it this far. Harmon says predicting the show’s success was hard to do after the pilot episode.

“I don’t know,” Harmon says. “I think when you do a pilot you hope for the best. But I don’t think anybody thinks in terms of that kind of longevity. But I do think that once you met the creative forces here — the show has always had a creative footprint — it’s been a little different in that there’s always a case, but the case doesn’t drive the show. It’s really about character, and there’s humor.”

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