Here's Johnny!: My Memories of Johnny Carson, The Tonight Show, and 46 Years of Friendship

Here's Johnny!: My Memories of Johnny Carson, The Tonight Show, and 46 Years of Friendship

by Ed McMahon


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Here's Johnny!: My Memories of Johnny Carson, The Tonight Show, and 46 Years of Friendship by Ed McMahon

For 30 years, Johnny Carson entertained millions of The Tonight Show viewers, creating a landmark of television. Now, Carson's irreplaceable partner and straight man Ed McMahon tells the touching, turbulent, and laugh-out-loud funny story of his personal, professional, and public relationship with one of the most beloved icons in entertainment history.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780425212295
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/05/2006
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 324,417
Product dimensions: 5.96(w) x 8.97(h) x 0.55(d)
Age Range: 18 - 17 Years

About the Author

Ed McMahon is an entertainment icon. In addition to 30 years on the Tonight Show, he is well-known as the presenter of the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes and the host of Star Search. He has also appeared in numerous films.

Read an Excerpt


By Ed McMahon


Copyright © 2007 Ed McMahon
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-40160-236-9

Chapter One

The Book of the Century

Johnny," I said a few months before he died, "we've had so many wonderful memories, both on and off the show, that nobody knows about."

"We'd better keep it that way," he said, "especially that night at Jilly's when those two nutty ... Of course, we didn't do anything."

"No, not that memory, but all the others. I'd love to share them with everyone in a book."

"Well, you're the only one to do it," he said. "And you can do it anytime in the next century."

"But so many people ..."

"Ed, write A Boy's Life of Wayne Newton first. Or The Wit and Wisdom of Fats Domino. Or the story of the Lincoln Tunnel: For Whom the Tolls. Or ..." "Stop!" I said, laughing hard. "Johnny, there are so many worthless books being published."

"And you want to write another one? Hey, how about writing The Joy of Zinc for all the people who find romance in minerals?"

"Seriously, Johnny," I said, "every day a dozen people ask me, 'What's Johnny Carson really like?'"

"The same dozen? Well, just tell them the truth. I'm an easygoing sociopath whose hobbies are bungee jumping, collecting swimsuit pictures of Jack LaLanne, and doing Zen meditation with P. Diddy. We pray for a new name for him."

Too Soon

My heart breaks to think that I do not have to wait until the year 2100 to write my memories of Johnny Carson. At a few minutes after seven o'clock on the morning of January 23, 2005, the telephone rang in my Beverly Hills house. My wife, Pam, answered it and her hand fell to her heart. As the blood drained from her face, she silently handed the phone to me. I didn't need Sherlock Holmes to know what had happened.

"Johnny," I said.

Pam's look said it all. In dismay, I took the phone.

"Ed," said Johnny's nephew, Jeff Sotzing, "Johnny just died."

"Oh, no, no."

"You're my first call. He would have wanted me to call you first. I know how much you two meant to each other."

Being at a loss for words isn't my style, but it was then.

"Jeff ... I ... I don't know what to say."

"You don't have to."

"I'm reeling now. Let me call you back."

Then I started to cry-the first tears that Pam ever saw me shed.

The following day, I just lay in bed, watching all the tributes to Johnny, crying one minute, laughing the next. It was a style of mourning you don't often see.

"Ed," I can hear Johnny saying, "you needed a grief counselor. Or maybe one for volleyball."

In the following weeks, I went on many radio and TV shows, on each of them paying tribute to Johnny. And one day, his widow, Alexis, called.

"Ed," she said, "I've seen everything you've done. You've been magnificent."

"Johnny would've hated it all," I said.

"Yes, wouldn't he? But it's so wonderful you're doing it. I love you, Ed, just as Johnny did."


Skitch Henderson once said that I treated everyone with love, an observation that made me sound more like a captain in the Salvation Army instead of a colonel in the U.S. Marines. Well, I haven't always treated everyone with love. In 1952, I dropped several unloving things on some North Koreans. But I always felt a little extra love for Johnny, who dropped a few bombs of his own when we were together.

Most comic teams are not good friends or even friends at all. Laurel and Hardy didn't hang out together, Abbott and Costello weren't best of friends, and Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis-well, there were warmer feelings between Custer and Sitting Bull. However, Johnny and I were the happy exception. Although he was my boss, we shared the unwavering affection of a couple of equals who drove themselves to work, finally found the right wives, and liked to lose themselves in drumming and singing while listening to jazz.

For forty-six years, Johnny and I were as close as two nonmarried people can be. And if he heard me say that, he might say, "Ed, I always felt you were my insignificant other."

On his farewell show, I was deeply moved when Johnny told America, "This show would have been impossible to do without Ed. Some of the best things we've done on the show have just been ... well, he starts something, I start something ... Ed has been a rock for thirty years and we've been friends for thirty-four. A lot of people who work together on television don't like each other, but Ed and I have been good friends. You can't fake that on TV."

No, you can't. George Burns said, "In show business, the most important thing is sincerity. And if you can fake that, you've got it made." However, there was no faking what Johnny and I felt for each other.

Every year on our anniversary show, October 1, Johnny would turn to me and say, "I wouldn't be sitting in this chair for [fill in a number from two to thirty] years if it weren't for this man beside me. He's my rock."

My booming laugh on The Tonight Show was never just a conditioned reflex, but always a genuine appreciation for the man who could come up with something like: "A woman was arrested out here in Los Angeles for trading sex not for money but for spaghetti dinners. Would that make her a pastatute?"

That line came from Johnny, not one of his writers, none of whom had wit that approached his.

On another night, Madeline Kahn and Johnny were talking about their fears. "Anything particular that you're afraid of?" he asked her.

"Well, it's strange, Johnny," she said, "but I don't like balls coming toward me." "That's called testaphobia," Johnny said.

Johnny always managed to come up with just the right line, or just the right gesture, or a blend of both.

Ice Water?

"Johnny Carson has ice water in his veins," some people used to say.

To which Johnny once replied, "That's just not true; I had all the ice water removed. I did it in Denmark many years ago."

He also had a less comic reply: "Ed, I'm so tired of the same old crap: people telling me, 'You're cool and aloof.' They always want to know why I'm cool and aloof instead of hot and stooped. You've known me for eighteen years. Am I cool and aloof?"

"No, my lord."

Johnny had developed the reputation for being cold and aloof because he was uncomfortable with people he didn't know, but I knew him better than anyone outside of his family, and I can tell you there was never any ice water to remove. In July of 1995, when my son Michael died at forty-four from stomach cancer, Johnny called me with just the right words. And after speaking those words, he said, "There's not a day when you won't think of him."

Ice water? When his own son Rick was killed in a car crash in 1991, Johnny gave a short, moving eulogy that let America know what flowed in his veins.

"I'm not doing this to be mawkish, believe me," he said as he showed a picture of Rick and then some of Rick's nature photographs. "Rick was an exuberant young man, fun to be around. And he tried so hard to please. You'll have to forgive a father's pride in these pictures."

The final one was a sunset.

And America knew that warm flow again on the next to last Tonight Show, when Bette Midler sang to Johnny and his eyes moistened on hearing "You Made Me Love You" and "One for My Baby and One More for the Road."

That was one of the very few times I saw Johnny tearful. I can remember only three others: at Jack Benny's funeral; when Alex Haley, the author of Roots, gave Johnny a leather-bound volume titled Roots of Johnny Carson-A Tribute to a Great American Entertainer with the inscription, "With warm wishes to you and your family from the family of Kunta Kinte" on the flyleaf; and when Jimmy Stewart read "I'll Never Forget a Dog Named Beau," a poem about his golden retriever. The poem was forgettable, but Johnny was moved by the way Jimmy Stewart delivered it. Jimmy was a blend of great actor and great person. Both Johnny and I were in tears. Just a couple of maudlin mutt mourners.

Achingly missed

I don't think I will ever be able to accept that Johnny is gone. His favorite song, "I'll Be Seeing You," is hard for me to hear now, much harder than hearing Stevie Wonder sing it to Johnny on one of the last shows. So often I look at a phone with a sinking feeling because I can't pick it up and get to him.

"And well you know that sinking feeling," Johnny would say, "from all the nights we went into the tank."

Johnny Carson is achingly missed. The critic James Wolcott described him as "cool, unflappable, precise, Carson always knew how to pivot. He was comedy's blue diamond, the master practitioner, the model of excellence."

Yes, blue diamond, this large rhinestone remembers well how you pivoted with all those guests who suddenly made you dance with them. You weren't Fred Astaire, but you weren't Fred Mertz either. You danced endearingly one night with Pearl Bailey to "Love Is Here to Stay," moving with an airy blend of comedy and grace. You danced courageously with Vlasta, the international queen of polka, who easily could have made you look like someone falling down stairs. And the night I watched you rhumba with that fat woman from Detroit, looking funny but not foolish, never mocking her but sweeping her along with that same airy blend, I wondered, Is there nothing this man can't do?

For more than three decades, we performed together on two television shows and at road shows, conventions, and state fairs. We read each other so well that either of us could launch a bit and the other would know where to take it. When a dog in one of my Alpo commercials walked away from the food instead of eating it, Johnny knew how to jump right in. On all fours, he crawled over to the food bowl and became TV's first animal understudy.

When Johnny said that one of Joan Embrey's chimps was seven or eight years old and I said, "No, Johnny, I think he's nine," we looked at each other and were off on another flight from an unlikely launching pad.

"Let me get this straight, Ed," said Johnny, tapping the pencil he often held. "You're correcting me about the age of a chimp?" "Sorry, Johnny," I said, playing it just as straight, "but a man has got to have standards. You start with faking the age of chimps and then you fake elephants and the next thing you know, you're five years younger yourself. You just work your way up."

"Or down."

"Yes, that's certainly another way to look at it."

"Ed, you studied philosophy in college and maybe even learned a little. In the grand scheme of things, how important is the age of a chimp?"

"Well, maybe not important to Plato," I said.

"Right. Plato had hamsters."

"But you'll have to admit it's certainly important to the chimp."

"Eight, nine ... he's too young to drive anyway."

"But not for certain theme park rides, if the cutoff is nine and not eight."

"I have a theme park ride in mind for you, Ed. The half-built roller coaster."

What Was Johnny Really Like?

Since Johnny's death, every national magazine except Cattleman's Quarterly has been telling things about him that small children already knew. Well, I'm going to tell you some things that neither small children nor large adults know. Here, with Johnny's nervous blessing, is my answer to the question that almost drove this second banana bananas: What was Johnny really like? And as I spin these memories, I'll be hearing him say, "Easy on the bull, Ed, or I'll find a way to have Carnac let everyone know that the Marine Corps issued you a security blanket."

On his last show, Johnny read this line from a letter: "Now we'll see if Ed McMahon really thinks you're funny."

A cute line. But for anyone seriously wondering if I were the world's greatest actor for thirty-four years, these pages contain the resounding answer.


Excerpted from HERE'S JOHNNY! by Ed McMahon Copyright © 2007 by Ed McMahon. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Warmup: And Hilarity Ensues....................xi
One: The Book of the Century....................1
Two: Good-bye, Mr Philadelphia Television....................11
Three: "Thanks for Coming Up, Ed!"....................17
Four: The Warmest Welcome....................23
Five: A Party of One....................31
Six: Not Below Paar....................37
Seven: "Heeeeere's Johnny!" and "Hi-Yooo!"....................43
Eight: A Chicken Asleep....................53
Nine: "Yes, Nice to Meet You, Skitch"....................63
Ten: On a Wing and a Prayer....................69
Eleven: On the Road to Euphoria....................81
Twelve: Tying One On....................89
Thirteen: Have Jokes, Will Travel....................99
Fourteen: Here Comes the Rating!....................106
Fifteen: Westward, Hi-Yooo!....................111
Sixteen: Head of the Class....................119
Seventeen: You Gotta Have Heart....................127
Eighteen: And Here's to Lewis and Clark!....................133
Nineteen: Mr Star Maker....................139
Twenty: A Detector Built In....................147
Twenty-one: His Own Multitude....................153

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Here's Johnny!: My Memories of Johnny Carson, The Tonight Show, and 46 Years of Friendship 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Funny but as a baby boomer who had to get to bed earlier most times than the Tonight Show, I am now appreciating his quick wit more since his death. A couple here have felt Ed showed an inflated ego I did not see this in the book-I saw throughout the book humility and love for a friend of nearly 50 years. I feel like I know Johnny Carson after reading this book - which was Ed's goal.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a book about ED and his inflated ego.Too much ED, not enough inside look at a great comedian and unique personality. What is in this book is not news to the Carson fans. Stll looking for a real close look at one of America's greatest personalities.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ed does a great job of telling of his relationship with Johnny Carson. A book full of memories and tall tales from a man who had a front seat to Johnny's run from a host of a silly game show to the King of late night.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love the inside scoop of what went on behind the scenes .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Here's Johnny, even as a title, draws readers in as they, like myself, want an insight to the dynamic duo that included Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon. In addition to including many memories that occurred onstage such as a list of most popular bits by Carnac the Magnificent and descriptions of the most entertaining guests like Dolly Parton and a lady who collected potato chips, McMahon includes behind the scenes occurrences that further develop the public's view of Johnny Carson. However, as a member of the upcoming generation and not a complete and dedicated watcher, there were some references that I did not understand or find appealing. Despite that, though, I was able to pass through the biography fairly easily and swiftly. One of the best aspects of the book is the detailed background McMahon gives to explain how he and Johnny got where they 'lived' for over thirty years. McMahon started out wanting to be a radio host and hopping from odd host job to the next until he met Carson. Carson was offered the position on The Tonight Show after its previous host left and was not even supposed to bring Ed along but Johnny, it seems, was never really one for the rules. McMahon explains his first experiences on the show with Johnny, many of them without a script. Johnny had a habit of setting McMahon's scripts on fire as a way of forcing him to adlib. Outside of the small gaps between my thought process and knowledge of The Tonight Show and McMahon's, I really enjoyed this piece. I learned a great deal about Carson and have a new perspective on stand up comedians, too. I would definitely recommend this book to any of you out there who have seen and admired Johnny Carson and would like to get a little closer to Mr. Late-Night Television.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a book that will leave every reader humming the 'Tonight Show' theme song by Paul Anka.For those of us who owe our careers in entertainment to 'The Tonight Show' and Johnny Carson it will remind everyone just how powerful a hold Johnny had on the psyche of America. Yes, Ed does tend to repeat himself often in the book, and many of the stories will be very familiar to devotees of Johnny, but it is also a book filled with some startling revelations and insights into both Johnny and Ed's relationship that will leave you smiling from ear to ear. Most importantly, it is a book filled with such tremendous warmth, love, friendship and admiration that it leaves you touched and heartwarmed by its tales. At its emotional core, Ed is grieving for the loss of his close friend and for a time that is long gone and is sorely missed. Ed understands, and explains, that Carson was pure class and the professional that most entertainers should strive to be, but are not. Like Ed, those of us who loved Carson and 'The Tonight Show' are grieving the loss of a tremendously talented, decent, wonderful human being and of a kinder, gentler time. In this crude, rude, crass, loud world, this book is a reminder of the way things should be done. McMahon is not a great writer, but this book is funny, engaging, sweet, warm, and wonderfully entertaining and a very easy read. It took me only 3 days to finish it, and I felt fortunate to be able to experience such depth of passion by Ed for his departed friend. Thanks for sharing the love Mr. McMahon, it brought us back to a time that we all miss so dearly. Cheers Johnny!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
It has been a long time since I read a book that kept me laughing from start to finish. This book for me was a great reminder of how great the tonight show 'used to be'. It was so nice to be brought back to a time I had forgotten. Johnny Carson entertained me for years and it was nice to go back in time and laugh again. A must read for comedy lovers!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Some other ones have gotten mixed up. I found them further down but dont remember the res. Just saying in case you want to read them.)) Ariella Hawkeye x Jacuzzi Splot. <p> Ariella Hawkeye sat in the driver seat of the small, silver ford fiesta. She punches the steering wheel angrily. "Jackie, how much time do we have before the train comes?" She says as the car sits still on the tracks. It refuses to move. "My alchemt wont work to get us out of this. Ive tried." She admits bitterly. <br> "Ten minutes, Ari." Tears run down Jacuzzi's face as usual. They both look back at their eleven year old daughter. <br> "Edmond. You need to get out. It our belts that are stuck. Leave darling." Ariella says sternly. She keeps on her brave face, showing that Edmond should still be strong, even in death. <br> "Yes, ma'am." Edmond follows her mothers example and exists the car. She looks back to see Ariella making shooing motions and saying run. Edmond's feet are frozen in place with worry and fear. She stands only ten yards from the tracks as the train comes. <br> "Ari, she'll be okay. She'll see us again." He hugs Ariella tightly and closes his eyes. The very thing he liked was racing at them quickly. <br> Ariella nods. "I know, Jackie..." She tears up. "I know..." She watches the train approch. At last second she closes her eyes an As both her and Jacuzzi get swept away. The last thing she said was. "Fu<_>ck you." To the train.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The photos in the book were only of Johnny and Ed, with occasionally a peek at an additional character. None were shown of Aunt Blabby, Floyd, the 'teatime movie' host, Carol Wayne,or Joan Embrey. for example. Not much from Tommy Newsome or Doc Severensin, and two or three pictures of Skitch Henderson related the 'Tonight Show Band' which was one of THE best bands anywhere. The pages spun by like a Larry King interview where each one of his guests had to kibbitz about Johnny. Most of the stories I had heard on various 'The Best of the Tonight Show' presentations. If all the material had just been shown recently about a superb comic and 'second banana' TV show that struck the enjoyment of millions, the book would have been a guide. Please put Ed McMahon back on Publishers Clearing House contests or for a few guest reminiscences, and don't let him write another 'Here's Johhny, Part II'.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Johnny Carson was a hero of mine. I couldn't wait to buy and read this book written by a man who surely knew him. Unfortunately, it really is a story of how wonderful Ed thiought he was as second banana. The stories he relates are most familiar to any devotee of the King of Late Night. Nothng is new except for how Ed heard the news about Johnny's death and a horrible tribute to the tune of 'Thanks for the Memories.' Either this book was put together in a hurry or the author does not know how to write. I am looking forward to a book about Johnny Carson, not Ed Mc Mahon. I read a book a month and this is the worst book I have read in 10 years.