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.
What a great night for the entertaining magician Don Alan. Alan’s flawless technique and comic delivery flusters even Johnny Carson who grew up performing magic himself. Man, those final loads! Perfection.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.