Skip to main content

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

Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon were the best of friends, to hear Ed tell it. Yet Ed was doomed to play second banana, that designation from Vaudeville implying a lesser, even subservient role. Ed sold dog food. Johnny sat in a chair and made millions. Night after night, Ed chuckled at every joke, fed his master the straight lines that made Johnny look good, and in the end, Ed declares with ingenuous pride, "He and I had the same values, though not the same valuables. I also had a yacht, but next to Johnny's, mine would have looked like a dinghy."

The secret of their relationship seems to have been Ed's willingness to accept his role, Johnny's occasional willingness to acknowledge it, and their private bond of equality. They were two men who were "graduates of major universities" as they perennially quipped, and who were both willing to play with chimps, put in a guest appearance at the state fair, and drop fresh eggs into their and other's trousers.

Johnny loved the limelight, and Ed didn't seem to mind being the one who always moved over until he hit the very end of the couch. Johnny was brilliant and fast, a guy who enjoyed topping other people's lines and knew what he could get away with, while Ed appeared a great lumbering sort of chap not much blessed with comedic talent. Together they were greater than the sum of their parts. Ed was always there to push things along, to keep Johnny on course, to pad out his thin spots, even though there was scant chance that any fan would have said, "Hi-yo, that Ed McMahon sure is a funny guy."

But true to the book's title, Ed expresses nothing but admiration, undiluted, for the man who could be Carnac, Turbo or Rambo, who could chat with equal aplomb to Tiny Tim, Liz Taylor, and a guy who made sculptures out of animal feces. Johnny made the humble near-greats feel at home and let them be the center of attention. With the greats, he set out to show that he could do what they did, and better. Arrogant millionaire, ragingly successful talk-show host, or just plain Midwestern boy, Johnny was always on. And Ed was there to declare with total sincerity of his boss, "It was his nature to always make his guests look their best."

HERE'S JOHNNY! reads like a production of "The Tonight Show" in the Carson heyday --- breezy and full of the good jokes (and some of the bad ones) and personalities that came and went over the years. It offers no surprises. Painted with a light and flattering brush, it's for the fans, just as stated in the subtitle --- an unabashed paean to the star, by the man on the end of the couch.

Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott on January 22, 2011

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

  • Publication Date: October 18, 2005
  • Genres: Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson
  • ISBN-10: 1401602363
  • ISBN-13: 9781401602369