It’s a safe bet to say that during its entire run, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson had a lot of great guests. You could count on a comedian or an all-around great entertainer to liven up the night.
Year after year, they all lined up to take turns on the couch. Carson could make pretty much any guest look good. It’s been said that he felt like it was his role to make each guest feel comfortable.
Let’s point out five of the best guests Johnny Carson had on his show.
“Old Ski Nose” himself, Hope appeared more than any other guest during Carson’s time on The Tonight Show. He would usually pop out as the first guest, chit-chat with Johnny, crack a joke about his golf game, and show a clip from his latest NBC special.
Hope also was on the couch one night with Dean Martin when comedian George Gobel came out with a drink and cigarette in hand. Gobel brought the house down with his jokes. Good times.
Johnny Carson always referred to Rickles as “Mr. Warmth,” a slight on Rickles’ usually uptight schtick. If you’ve seen Rickles’ bit before, then you know he was a joke-or-put-down-a-minute comic. Carson gave Rickles a big break in the 1960s when he had him on numerous times.
One night, Rickles was guest-hosting for Carson when he broke Carson’s cigarette box. Johnny comes back the next night, finds his box broken, and is told Rickles did it, Carson heads over to visit Rickles, who is in another NBC studio.
Talk about no respect! Well, that was Dangerfield’s running joke for years. It kept him booked in some of the biggest places in the United States and made him “must-see TV” when visiting The Tonight Show. Rodney usually would do 10 minutes of stand-up, go sit next to Carson, and bring the house down. His rapid-fire delivery of jokes made a person almost unable to breathe from so much laughing.
When it comes to female guests on The Tonight Show, Rivers deserves her spot. Sure, she and Carson were close friends for a long time. In fact, Rivers was one of Johnny’s official “guest hosts” when he wasn’t on the show. Rivers always was a solid guest, making people laugh a lot. Sadly, Rivers lost her spot as a guest host (and Carson’s friendship) when she bolted for Fox and her own late-night talk show.
Sammy Davis Jr.
Well, you cannot tell me that people didn’t watch or listen when Sammy hit the show’s stage. You could count on Sammy to do a song or two, then go laugh it up with Johnny and his sidekick, Ed McMahon. Davis always was, in his day, a ball of energy. If you were lucky, then you might see Davis tap dance a bit. He truly was a man for all seasons.
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