Television

Talk show icon Johnny Carson passes away

MUMBAI: On 23 January American television lost one of its icons that today's talk show hosts like Jay Leno looked up to.

The former host of NBC's legendary chat show The Tonight Show Johnny Carson died at the age of 79 battling the respiratory disease emphysema.

Johnny Carson shares a light moment with one of his guests actress Bette Midler

Leno stepped into Carson's shoes in 1992. Carson spent three decades on the show putting a smile on the viewers faces before they went off to sleep. US President George Bush led the public tributes saying, "Carson had a profound influence on American life and entertainment."

Carson is considered to have refined and perfected the format of the late-night chat show. The Tonight Show would begin with a fast-paced monologue, usually dealing with events from around the world. A lot of jokes he cracked took aim at former presidents including Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan.

His sidekick Ed McMahon would go "Heeeeere's Johnny!" before Carson made his entrance. Paying tribute to Carson Leno said, "No single individual has had as great an impact on television as Johnny. He was the gold standard."

 

In 1980s, Carson was reportedly the highest-paid performer in television history with a $5 million Tonight show salary alone. His Carson Productions created and sold pilots to NBC, including TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes.Carson himself made occasional cameo appearances on other TV series.

However it was not always smooth going for Carson. In 1967 Carson walked out for several weeks until NBC managed to lure him back with a contract that reportedly gave him $1 million-plus yearly.

In 1980, after more walkout threats, the show was scaled back from 90 minutes to an hour. Carson also eased his schedule by cutting back on his work days. Therefore the likes of Joan Rivers, Jerry Lewis and Jay Leno filled in.

Actor Bill Cosby said, "Johnny was responsible for the beginning and the rise of success for more performers than anyone. I doubt if those numbers will ever be surpassed".

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