Lance Burton

Lance Burton, just 21 years old at the time, made his mark on the world in this wonderful first appearance on the Tonight Show. Johnny Carson, the host, himself an amateur magician, allowed Burton to perform what was up to then the longest segment on the show. You can hear Lance Burton talk about that experience in the interview that I conducted with him some years ago, here.

Thanks to YouTuber darksidedeceptions

… “With a Chance of Rain”

Betty White died last week. She was a fine comedian and when she appeared on the Johnny Carson show, she and Johnny would team up to do sketches.

Here’s an eerily appropriate climate catastrophe sketch from the 1980s that was inspired by the then odd weather that Malibu was experiencing.

More at Johnny Carson

Charles Grodin

Charles Grodin died last month. His mock feud segments with Johnny Carson were some of my favorite bits of impromptu comedy. Here’s a follow up visit by Grodin to Johnny that I posted a few years ago.

Thanks to YouTuber MyInnerEyeInterview2

The Cat’s Meow


Ed Ferrar owned a jaguar; not the car, the animal. It’s an animal so wild and unpredictable it was rarely shown in the circus. Watch Ed as he brings out the big cat to meet Johnny Carson. You don’t often see Johnny lose his cool…

Thanks to YouTuber Gary Ferrar, Ed’s grandson, who has carried on his grandfather’s tradition in show biz as a magician and mentalist—but not as jaguar tamer.

Dead Easy Way To Do Impressions Of Famous People: Albert Brooks


This had me rolling in laughter. Comedian Albert Brooks explains to Johnny Carson his invention that helps him impersonate famous people.

More Johnny Carson clips at Johnny Carson

“King of Hearts, Come Down and Dance”


In what is probably Steve Martin’s greatest magic performance, Steve performs for Johnny Carson the inexplicable unpublished Vernon/Marlo card miracle, “King of Hearts, Come Down and Dance.”

Thanks to YouTuber Jeff Dresback

Magician In Trouble: Steve Martin



In a pre-cursor to his great Flydini routine, Steve Martin performs this humorous sketch, a spoof of a Channing Pollock-like magician, on a Johnny Carson Comedians Special.

Thanks to YouTuber  Jeff Dresback

Calling God: Ellen DeGeneres


While I’m not much of a fan of Ellen DeGeneres’s present talk show, this clip of her first performance on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show is a wonderful example of just how smart and funny she was as a stand-up.

More Tonight Show at Johnny Carson

That Reminds Me…


Magicians know Harry Lorayne as the author of some very popular books of card magic, but Harry, who is now in his 90s and still writing card magic books, really made his bread and butter from a related but different form of show business. He was recognized as one of the foremost “memory experts,” and in the 1960s and 70s, he made scores of television and night club appearances, amazing audiences with his memory stunts.

In this clip he memorizes the names of the people in Johnny Carson’s audience, having met them briefly just once before the show.  It’s fun to see how Harry uses his entertainment skills and enthusiastic personality to turn what could be a dry demonstration into a showstopper.

Thanks to YouTuber Rudy Tinoco

El Mouldo: Johnny Carson


El Mouldo was yet another hapless magician from the Carson cast of characters. In this segment from 1974 he challenges an audience member to do his magic act.

The talented woman in the sketch is Tracy Newman, whose younger sister, Laraine Newman, was one of the original Saturday Night Live cast members.

Thanks to YouTuber miguelbonaroti


Carnac … The Magnificent!


Johnny Carson had a lot of great long-running character bits on The Tonight Show, but my favorite was “Carnac the Magnificent.” The premise, of course, was that the great mystic seer from the East would divine the contents of a hermetically sealed envelope.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Carson, a fan of magic and a magician himself (see here for my interview with Lance Burton where Burton talks about Carson),  took the character from these guys.

Some of Carson’s jokes are very topical and don’t land anymore (two Leon Spinks jokes?), but the audience knew the format and eagerly responded. In my opinion, Ed McMahon earned his keep here as a terrific straight man in this routine. Now you, too, can partake of the wisdom of the great mystic seer by clicking on the video above.

Thanks to YouTuber Richie Cunningham