Artists - Johnny Carson

Artist Biography

In the world of television, few partnerships have left as lasting an impact as the personal and professional friendship between Johnny Carson and Ed Sullivan. These two legendary figures not only shaped the landscape of American entertainment but also shared a deep bond that extended beyond the bright lights of the stage. Let’s delve into the remarkable connection that defined their relationship. 

Johnny Carson and Ed Sullivan first crossed paths in the vibrant world of showbiz during the 1950s. At the time, both were rising stars in their respective fields – Carson making a name for himself as a comedian on his half-hour CBS show The Johnny Carson Show and Sullivan as the influential host of the Toast of the Town. Carson’s early appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show marked the beginning of their professional collaboration. Sullivan recognized Carson’s comedic talent and invited him to perform an array of sketches and stand-up routines. 

Carson made his debut on The Ed Sullivan Show on October 9, 1955, just a few weeks after the show’s name was changed from Toast of the Town. During the routine, Carson impersonated Steve Allen, a competitor in the television landscape, and made fun of Milton Berle and several other personalities. From then on, Carson went on to appear five more times on the Sullivan show. 

On October 1, 1962, Johnny Carson starred in the first episode of NBC’s Tonight (later called The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson). From that day on, Carson would embark on a 30-year-long career that became a cultural phenomenon and a staple of American television. Known for his wit, charm, and impeccable comedic timing, Carson interviewed a wide range of celebrities, politicians, athletes, and cultural figures. 

Some of the many guests that Carson interviewed included Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball, Bob Hope, Muhammad Ali, Ronald Reagan, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Steve Martin, Rodney Dangerfield, Eddie Murphy, Dean Martin, Madonna, Don Rickles, Richard Pryor, Bob Saget, Sean Connery, Elton John, and hundreds of others.

Beyond the confines of television studios and live audiences, Carson and Sullivan developed a genuine friendship that extended into their personal lives. Despite the competitive nature of the entertainment industry, the two men shared a mutual respect and camaraderie. They often spent time together outside of work, enjoying dinners, social events, and engaging in leisure activities that strengthened their bond.

While Carson appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, Ed Sullivan would also guest on The Tonight Show and share random banter with his good friend Johnny. Sullivan appeared on the show four times, and each time you notice the camaraderie and connection between the two men grow stronger.  During this time, both showmen were at the top of their careers, hosting the best of the best and always looking for new ways to elevate their game.     

On Ed’s final appearance on The Tonight Show, he shared some words about Johnny Carson and his career. Sullivan said, “You’ve been on so long, you’ve done such a tremendous job. There have been so many shows that have gone off the air since you’ve been on.” Ed continued, “I’m going to ask the audience to give a “reallyyy big hand” for Johnny Carson!.” And just to show how much Johnny Carson respected his good old friend, Ed Sullivan, he did what he normally never did when the show ended, he respectfully escorted Ed off the set in true Carson class. 

As we reflect on Johnny Carson’s contributions to the world of television, there’s no question he was a major influencer in shaping the golden era of American entertainment. Johnny will be forever remembered as the “king of late-night television”.

To watch Johnny Carson and Ed Sullivan performances be sure to head over to the ‘Classic TV Variety’ channel now streaming on Pluto TV.