05.07.12

Johnny Carson’s Greatest Moments From Carnac to a Python Grapple

Johnny Carson sent a nation off to bed with a smile for 30 years as the host of ‘The Tonight Show.’ From Carnac the Magnificent to his very close encounter with a python to a duet with Better Midler, here’s our list of Carson’s greatest moments.

Carnac the Magnificent

Video screenshot

In one of his most famous sketches, Johnny Carson channeled his psychic abilities as “Carnac the Magnificent.” Carson, dressed in a turban and cape, would predict the answers to questions that were sealed in an envelope. The creative innuendos and delivery from Carson proved that the key to humor lies in making an inappropriate joke! Feel free to laugh, but beware! Don’t break the concentration of the “mystic from the East,” or he will place a curse on you!

Adam and Eve’s Divorce

Video screenshot

Adam and Eve had more problems than that forbidden apple. In this memorable skit, Carson and Betty White stripped down to their skivvies to reenact the divorce proceedings for humanity’s first couple. Unable to come to an agreement over alimony, God intervenes to help Adam and Eve divvy up their marital belongings. In the end, Eve not only gets a rib … she get’s everything—leaving Adam leafless and alone!

Carson Chip Collector Prank

Video screenshot

This is seriously one of the best pranks ever! In 1987, Myrtle Young came on The Tonight Show to show off her rare collection of potato chips. After displaying a chip that looked like a pear, Myrtle turned away just long enough for Carson to crunch down on one of her priceless potato creations—or so it seemed. Carson quickly revealed his personal bowl of potato chips hidden strategically behind the desk and Myrtle’s shock turned into uncomfortable laughter.

Hamlet the Huckster

Video screenshot

Only Johnny Carson could make the commercialization of Shakespeare funny. Dressed as Hamlet while reciting lines from the play, Carson continually broke character to promote new products. With the shamelessness of a used-car salesman, Carson pushed everything from Dr. Pepper to hemorrhoid cream with a Shakespearian twist. Alas, poor Yorick, don’t forget your American Express card!

Carson’s Very Close Encounter

Video screenshot

Is that a reptile? Or are you just happy to see me? During one of his infamous animal interactions, Johnny Carson got up close and very personal with a Burmese python. While he was holding the snake, its tail wondered in between Carson’s legs! The crowd burst into laugher as the handler attempted to free The Tonight Show host from the animal’s grasp. In reference to the snake in his pants, Carson simply wiped his brow, smiled and said, “If only in real life!” Classic!

A Duet with Bette

Video screenshot

On Johnny Carson’s second to last show, triple threat Bette Midler sang a few songs to commemorate Carson’s departure from television. While all were memorable, it’s her duet with Carson that’s particularly unforgettable. The audience was silent as Carson and Midler sang an a cappella version of the song “Here’s That Rainy Day.” It’s a sweet and sincere moment that you’d be hard pressed to find in today’s late-night lineup.

Johnny Says Farewell

Video screenshot

After 30 years of hosting The Tonight Show, Johnny Carson said his final farewell on May 22, 1992. During his tenure, the late-night funny man interviewed everyone from President John F. Kennedy to Muhammad Ali. In his final message, Carson choked back tears while thanking fans for their continual support. “I found something I always wanted to do,” Carson said.  “And I enjoyed every single minute of it.”