5 Secrets You Probably Didn't Know About Johnny Carson

On October 23, 1925, Johnny Carson was born in Corning, Iowa and grew up to become one of television's most-loved TV personalities of the 20th century. Here are five secrets you probably didn't know about Johnny Carson...

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Early in His Career, He Hosted a Game Show Carson was picked to host the game show Who Do You Trust in the late 1950s, which is where he met Ed McMahon, who worked on the show as the announcer. It was a program where couples competed, and the man would be asked if he wanted to answer the question of whether his wife should. Carson spent a large part of the show interacting with the contestants, which helped land him the job on The Tonight Show after the retirement of Jack Paar.

Groucho Marx Introduced Carson as the New Host of the Show On Carson’s first night as host of the show, replacing Jack Paar, he was introduced by legendary comedian Groucho Marx, age 72. Six years later, Marx honored Carson at a roast held at the Friars’ Club in New York. Guests appearing on Carson’s opening show were Tony Bennett, Joan Crawford, Rudy Vallee and a new comedy writer, Mel Brooks.

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The Tonight Show Theme Has Lyrics A lot of those instrumental TV themes that you grew up humming actually had lyrics. Among these were lyrics to the theme to Star Trek and the theme to the Tonight Show. Carson actually wrote the lyrics to that theme, and the music was by Paul Anka (who took one of his prior hits and reworked it for the show). While the lyrics were never used, Carson still got a good deal and received 50 percent of the royalties.

He Assisted Orson Welles In A Magic Act During World War II In 1943, Carson, 18, went into the U.S. Navy where he was assigned work in communications decoding encrypted messages. He performed magic as a hobby, usually for shipmates, but was invited to perform as an assistant to Orson Welles during a performance to entertain the troops aboard the U.S.S. Pennsylvania. Welles was also assisted by his beautiful wife, Rita Hayworth, whom he cut in half during his magic act.

He Wrote Jokes For David Letterman's Show Carson was known for criticizing other talk show hosts, except for David Letterman. Carson was a big fan of Letterman and started sending jokes to Dave after he (Carson) retired. He'd send them daily, and some would make it on air without crediting Carson. A former Tonight Show producer said that he thought Carson missed the monologue segment of his show and needed an outlet for the jokes he was still thinking up.