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On this historic day, May 22, 1992, Johnny Carson made his final appearance on ‘The Tonight Show’

Johnny Carson, the king of late-night television, hosted his final episode of “The Tonight Show” on this day in history, May 22, 1992, after a 30-year run.

Carson has done about 22,000 interviews during his tenure and has been seen by more people on more occasions than anyone in American television history, according to the Vancouver Sun.

Long-running “The Tonight Show” was the first, and for decades, the most-watched network chat show on television, the Television Academy Foundation said.


In October 1962 Carson took over as host from Jack Paar and the show became “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson”.

Carson hosted the show for 30 years, from 1962 to 1992.

Photo of Johnny Carson, circa 1960. He was “known for his flippant sense of humor and middle-American appeal”, noted the Television Academy Foundation. (Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images)

During this time, the show moved from New York to Burbank, California.

“Carson was known for his flippant sense of humor and middle-American appeal, and quickly recognized his growing popularity as well as the strain of doing comedy and speaking five nights a week,” the Television Academy Foundation said. .

“As an artist, this has been the great experience of my life.”

“He threatened to quit the show, but was lured with a generous offer that included a huge pay rise and more time off.”

Carson was emotional during his final show — and his monologue was appropriately centered on his retirement, the Vancouver Sun noted.

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Carson’s thoughts on retirement included this comment: “Well, let me try to explain it. If I could magically, somehow – that tape you just saw – make it turn it upside down, I’d love to do it all over again. It’s been a hell of a lot of fun.”

Johnny Carson, Robert Blake and Ed McMahon chat on Johnny's Late Night Talk Show

Johnny Carson (far right), with Ed McMahon and Robert Blake in “The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson” in 1975. (Fred Sabine/NBCU)

He continued, “As an artist, this has been the greatest experience of my life, and I can’t imagine finding anything on television after I leave tonight that would give me so much joy and pleasure, and a such a feeling of euphoria, that this show gave me. It’s just hard to explain.”

He continued his monologue, “Now it’s a farewell show. There’s a certain sadness among the staff, a little melancholy. But look on the bright side: you won’t have to read or hear another story about me leaving that show. The media coverage has been absolutely amazing and we’re so grateful for that.”

“The media coverage has been absolutely tremendous, and we’re very grateful for that.”

He added: “But my God, the end of the Soviet Union didn’t get that kind of publicity. The press was very decent and honest with me, and I thank them for that… It’s up to just about everything.”

Midwestern roots

Carson was born John William Carson on October 23, 1925 in Corning, Iowa.

After graduating from high school and serving in the United States Navy during World War II—he helped decode encrypted enemy radio traffic on the USS Pennsylvania—Carson enrolled at the University of Nebraska.

There he participated in student theater activities and worked for a radio station in Lincoln, Britannica noted.

Then, after graduating in 1949, Carson took a radio job in Omaha – and in 1951 he started working as an announcer at a television station in Los Angeles.

He then hosted a comedy show on Sunday afternoons, which led to him being hired as a writer for the Red Skelton show, Britannica explains.

“After Carson successfully replaced Skelton at the last minute on one occasion, he was given his own short-lived variety show, ‘The Johnny Carson Show’,” according to the same source.

“He then moved to New York and in 1957 became the host of the game show ‘Who Do You Trust?’ In 1962, Carson replaced Jack Paar as host of “The Tonight Show”.

Carson also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992.

During her 30-year tenure, Carson created such memorable characters as Aunt Blabby and Carnac the Magnificent, as well as many classic sketches, becoming one of the country’s most beloved performers.

Carson’s last appearance as host of “The Tonight Show” drew an estimated 50 million viewers, the biggest viewership in the program’s history, Britannica noted.

In total, Carson received six Emmy Awards, the Television Academy Governor’s Award in 1980 and a Peabody Award in 1985, the Television Academy Foundation said.

Johnny CarsonDick Carson

Johnny Carson, left, chats with his brother director Dick Carson backstage at the Sahara Hotel circa 1973 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images)

He was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992 by President George H. W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush, with the citation noting that Carson “personifies the heart and humor of America”.

In 1993 he received a Kennedy Center Honor.

Additionally, “when Carson retired, Jay Leno was named the next lead host of ‘The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,'” the Television Academy said.

“Leno, a well-known stand-up comedian, brought his own writers and comedic style to the show, showcasing it in his opening monologues and banter with guests.”


On January 23, 2005, Carson died at the age of 79.

“Although the Carson family has released few details of his death, it was reportedly the result of emphysema-related complications,” NPR said.


Tributes poured in after Carson’s death, with this standout line coming from Leno: “No individual had such a big impact on television as Johnny. He was the gold standard.”

And ‘Tonight Show’ publicist Charles Barrett said: “He always drove to work, never took a limo. He was a guy who expected a level of professionalism from everyone. world on the show.”

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