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Johnny Carson touched our lives

Readers reflect on what talk-show host meant to them
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Johnny Carson came into America's living rooms for years, and he never forgot to respect the time he spent there. In return, he won the respect and love of generations.

Here are just some of the thoughts you sent to us upon reading of Carson's death at age 79.

In the spring of 1992 shortly before his last show and knowing that I would never be a guest on "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" I found myself at NBC Burbank. A friend had asked me to drop her off for an early morning call. It was about 5:00 am. Because of the darkness of the hour, the guard allowed me to the drive her on to the lot (a big deal in itself and something that would never happen today) and told me to drop off my friend at the talent entrance. The parking space closet to this entrance belonged to Johnny Carson. Since there was no one else around I thought, what the hell. I parked in Johnny Carson's parking spot for probably all of a minute. I thought if I couldn't sit on his couch this would have to do. On May 22, 1992 I mourned the loss of a dream. Today I mourn the loss of a legend.    --Tony

ADIOS FROM MEXICOJohnny made me an American, he opened a door where one could walk through and discover the sincere pleasure of laughter, past and present. He was a continuation of Jack Benny and Fred Allen, yet he was also the one that inroduced to us Seinfeld, Letterman, Leno and Shandling. Johnny will always hold the unique and distinguished position of bieng the true bridge in American humor.    —Julian, Mexico

As an ABC page in the 1970s, I worked one of the Oscar broadcasts that Johnny hosted. When he arrived, it was my responsibility to carry his suitcase to the dressing room. Mr. Carson walked ahead of me imperially as I hoisted what was the heaviest suitcase that I'd ever toted. I staggered after him, both white gloved hands gripped around the handle, trying to keep up, wondering why he needed to pack so much for an evening that only required a tux. The memory came to me just the other day. I even thought of writing and asking what the heck he had in the suitcase. A premonition, maybe. I'll never know, now. Good-bye, Johnny.    —R.D.

HE KNEW WHAT AMERICA WAS THINKINGI used to watch the Tonight Show with my grandmother, and some of the funniest moments, moments when we would laugh out loud together, were when Johnny would respond to what a guest had said by just quietly looking into the camera, letting us at home fill in the punch line. It was like he knew what America was thinking. It was like he was there with us in the living room, one of us. And he was.    —Will

COMFORT DURING SAD DAYSIn 1964 I was paralyzed from the waist down in an auto accident. After my accident I remember long sad days and nights until I discovered Johnny Carson. For an hour and half at 11:30 every weeknight Johnny made me laugh and helped me get through a difficult time in my life.  He was just what the doctor ordered at that time in my life. Thank you Johnny!!! You will be missed. --Gina

My Grandpa Emmett died when I was almost 4 years old, and my only memory of him is staying up late to watch Johnny Carson on television, snuggled next to each other on their big blue couch. --Megan

I recall watching Johnny do a sketch where he imitated 3 or four people playing cards (one of them was Steve Allen—who simply laughed every time Carson entered into his character). I must have been 10 or so and I just cracked up at how talented he was. I also recall him attempting a serious reading of (I believe) Hamlet, but he cut it short because people laughed instead of sitting quietly: my heart broke for him that night! God! What a legacy of laughter he leaves! I’m SO glad to have spent so many nights with him and his  “wacky, wacky” ways. I’ll always remember him and smile. --Daniel

Johnny Carson had it all — a gracious host, the quickest wit, a great comedian — one who stood the true test for talent and greatness — time! I remember staying up “late” during high school just to watch him no matter how tired I’d be in the morning getting up for school! His character “Art Fern” was one of the most hysterical I’ve ever seen to this day. The only other TV comic that comes close to Johnny Carson’s impact on American television would be another late Great One — Jackie Gleason. We will miss him dearly. --Jim

"The nicest guy to ever host a TV show. The best monologue artist ever, and more fun to watch than anybody on TV now. His old skits are still funny. A national treasure."    --Frank

"He was the king! Nobody has ever had a quicker wit. My favorite moment had to be the last. Robin Williams was at his absolute best and Bette Midler had everyone in tears. There are so many other moments....the skits, the characters, the guests, etc."  --Jim

I remember watching Johnny Carson as a kid and through college. It was a time that kids and parents could still watch late night programs.  We’d laugh with him, even when we may not have gotten the jokes and our parents would laugh because they did. It’s not the same late-night humor any longer and there is only ONE Johnny Carson. No one has measured up. --Brenda

”Sis Boom Bah.” What is the sound made by an exploding sheep? Johnny was an American original. There never was and never will be as talented, bright and genuinely funny a talk show host as him again. He defined the genre. —Tony

“The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” wasn’t always great, but it was never bad. You can’t say that about any of the current crop of late-night offerings. They are all just as likely to make you want to throw a brick throw the television as laugh. Johnny delivered every night for three decades. What else can you say. --Chad

LEFT A HOLE IN HER HEARTI feel like I’ve lost my father all over again. He was always there, and always the same-charming, funny and handsome. He was someone you could count on always being there when everyone else wasn’t, and someone who could always lift my spirits, even with the corniest of jokes. And the corniest ones were the funniest of all.

My fondest memory came when my second child decided to enter the world during one of Johnny’s shows. The memory of her arrival will always be linked to him. Goodbye, Johnny. You’ve left us with a hole in our hearts. --Charlotte

HELPING NEW PROMISING TALENTSince I was a teen, I always enjoyed watching Johnny.  His quick and often subtle wit, physical antics, facial expressions and, most of all, his skits with their wild costumes and props, provided me a keen understanding of great comedy. (Carnac was my most favorite! Who could forget the infamous “...fork in the road!”) I will never forget Johnny, his style, his persona, and most all, the enormous joy he brought to our family!  I also admire his generosity to help new, promising talent.  Thanks for the many, many wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime late night memories! We will miss you! --Dan

Memories are what we put in our hearts to be called on when we want to revisit a sweet or special time in our life. Johnny Carson was just that. Johnny Carson was like turning your pillow over to sleep on the cool side and drifting off to sleep and continuing with your dream.

His Art Fern and Carnac The Magnificient are irreplaceable. The double-takes and “I did not know that” were priceless.  The guests, everyone, was spectacular.  From Bob Newhart, Tony Randall (classy, elegant, and always newsworthy) to George Gobel, Don Rickles, Sammy Davis, the Potato Chip Lady, the talking parrot singing “Lolita” to Carol Wayne as the Art Fern matinee lady.  We loved all of you. You and your golf swing will be greatly missed.

Now, can we have Johnny Carson on ANY cable channel to lull us to sleep and remember a wonderful man and his contribution to comedy? --Jo

DEAD-PANNED HUMORI loved it when Johnny’s monologues bombed. He would get that dead-panned look on his face, the piano player in the band would start to play a tap dance number, and Johnny would start tap dancing. He was a riot with his facial expressions. Late night has not been the same since. --Steve

FEELING SAFEFalling asleep as a child and, at 10:30pm, hearing the theme song of The Tonight Show from the television in the den where my mother or older brothers watched. I felt safe and that all was right with the world when I heard that theme song. --Edwina

GROWING UP WITH JOHNNY"Simply put, I grew up with Johnny. My mother has told me when I was born, she would sit me in front of the tv when Johnny was on. I was undoubtedly hooked. He was easily the funniest person on TV -- ever. He will be missed and by anyone who ever saw him."    --Will

LOOK OUT, HEAVEN"Johnny was an icon for many of us who stayed up to watch him. For those that have never had a chance to view his magic, they have lost even more. What a great loss for comedians around the world. He will surely have a blast in heaven."    --Loraine

PASS TO ADULTHOOD"When I was 10 just the chance to stay up and watch the Tonight Show was like you just received a pass into another world."      --Mark

HE TOOK CARE OF US"My fondest memory of Johnny Carson was how upbeat he was. During the 70's (Vietnam War) he could always make everyone laugh. His witty humour was unsurpassed by anyone. I would take honor in saying "Dear Lord Jesus 'Heeeeeerrrrreeeeesssss Johnny' Please take care of him as he took care of us when we needed it."      --Lee