Heeeere lies Johnny

Chat show king Carson dies

American comedy legend Johnny Carson, the king of late-night TV for three decades, has died at the age of 79.

The host of Tonight Show died Sunday after a long battle with emphysema.

Carson was a heavy smoker for many years and in the early days, presented his NBC show, with a cigarette in his hand.

His easy-going style was marked with a quick wit and smooth, self-deprecating charm if a gag fell flat.

As well as his nightly TV appearances, he would also sometimes perform live in Las Vegas.

He started his career as a teenage magician, and in the Fifties created a sketch show for Los Angeles radio. From there he landed a job writing for TV comedian Red Skelton – until one day the comic fell ill and Carson took his place in front of the camera.

After that, he appeared on a number of TV shows, but none proved the right vehicle for him – until he stepped in as guest host of the Tonight Show in 1958. Four years later, the job was his permanently – and his first guest was Groucho Marx.

During the 30 years of the show, introduced with the legendary announcement "Heeeeere's Johnny!", Carson launched the careers of countless American comics, including Bill Cosby and Joan Rivers.

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.”

He never changed the show’s formula topical monologue, guests and sketches from the Sixties until he handed over to Jay Leno in 1992.

And when he quit, he disappeared from the limelight completely, spurning TV appearances.

However, he did occasionally send jokes to David Letterman, who lost the battle to succeed him on Tonight but instead landed the job front fronting NBC’s direct rival The Late Show.

Published: 2 Jan 2004

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