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
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
A classic Carson comedy routine with the dry-as-dust Jack Webb of the old television police procedural Dragnet.
Thanks to YouTuber Mike Dvorak
This clip of Sally Field with Johnny Carson has to be one of the funniest moments ever on the old Tonight Show.
Thanks to YouTuber Missy Logo
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
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