Ed McMahon

Host / Announcer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his three-and-a-half hour Archive interview, Ed McMahon (1923-2009) talks about his early work in television on series including Who Do You Trust? He speaks in great detail about his long association with The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. He then discusses working with Jerry Lewis on the MDA Telethon and hosting Star Search as well as TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes with Dick Clark. McMahon reflects on his long career, including his military service, and discusses losing his son. Michael Rosen conducted the interview on August 15, 2002 in Beverly Hills, CA.

"I’ve had a wonderful life. I did what I wanted to do, I woke up every morning and looked forward to that day because I was doing what I loved."

Interviewee(s)
Highlights
Ed McMahon on being announcer for Who Do You Trust? and on meeting Johnny Carson
Ed McMahon on his on-screen chemistry with Johnny Carson and Skitch Henderson on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and on Henderson leaving the show
Ed McMahon on Freddie Prinze appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and on the various comedians who appeared on the show over the years
Ed McMahon on the famous Ed Ames tomahawk throwing incident on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Ed McMahon on the second-to-last show for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, featuring Bette Midler and Robin Williams
Ed McMahon on hosting Star Search
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early life and influences; on early radio announcers he admired, and why he wanted to be an announcer; on his favorite early radio shows
On his activities during World War II; on his first job in television, on the first time he saw television, and on preparing for a career in the medium; on hosting and producing several local Philadelphia shows for WCAU circa 1950, including the show McMahon Around the House

Chapter 2

On working at WCAU in Philadelphia circa 1950; on playing a clown on the circus show Big Top, produced by Charles Vanda; on his involvement in the Korea War, and on his local show when he returned, Five Minutes More
On being announcer for Who Do You Trust? and on meeting Johnny Carson; on Edward R. Murrow's Person to Person, and on a favorite Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson sketch of his, which spawned a running joke

Chapter 3

On the concept behind the game show Who Do You Trust?, for which he was the announcer and Johnny Carson the host; on the shooting schedule of Who Do You Trust?, and on juggling several different shows; on Who Do You Trust? and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson producer Art Stark
On the history of The Tonight Show leading up to Johnny Carson becoming host in 1962; on his and Johnny Carson's first night on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson on October 1, 1962, and on Fred de Cordova eventually taking over as producer
On his and Johnny Carson's first Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson broadcast, and his "Here's Johnny!" introduction; on the early set of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Johnny's golf swing, and on filling ninety minutes each night

Chapter 4

On the style and tone of Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson; on first doing The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson live, and lateR switching to "live to tape," taping a few hours before air; on what he remembers about the aftermath of the very first Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson broadcast, and on avoiding staff meetings
On the succession of Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson producers; on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson theme song, co-written by Paul Anka and Carson
On his on-screen chemistry with Johnny Carson and Skitch Henderson on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and on Henderson leaving the show; on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson moving from New York City to Burbank, CA in 1972, and on the show later being shortened to an hour

Chapter 5

On The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson going to one hour in 1980, and on cutting back to three nights a week; on how his role on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson expanded over the years, and on being considered Carson's "second banana"; on the Carnac "sis-boom-bah" joke, and on what Carson would do if a joke bombed
On various Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson guests, including Ed Ames, Tiny Tim (who got married on the show), and Jim Fowler and Joan Embery with their animals; on a 1971 earthquake that occurred while he was in Los Angeles to tape The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson; on Myrtle Young, the "potato chip lady" appearing with Johnny Carson

Chapter 6

On favorite guests of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, including Jimmy Stewart, Michael Landon, and Elizabeth Taylor; on what makes a great talk show guest, and on the importance of non-celebrity guests on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson; on favorite comic guests of the show including Lucille Ball, Jack Benny, and Freddie Prinze
On the musical guests of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, including Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett; on the various guest hosts of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, including Joan Rivers and David Letterman; on Johnny Carson announcing he was leaving the show, and on the final weeks of episodes leading up to the finale

Chapter 7

On the second-to-last show for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, featuring Bette Midler and Robin Williams; on his favorite moments of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
On the legacy of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson; on Johnny Carson post-The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson; on his decision to retire
On appearing on the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon; on hosting Star Search

Chapter 8

On Ray Romano on Star Search, and other now-famous winners; on his proudest professional achievements and regrets; on what makes a good announcer
Shows

Big Top

View Show Page
Ed McMahon on playing a clown on the circus show Big Top, produced by Charles Vanda

Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon

View Show Page
Ed McMahon on appearing on the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon

Person to Person

View Show Page
Ed McMahon on Edward R. Murrow's Person to Person, and on a favorite Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson sketch of his, which spawned a running joke

Star Search

View Show Page
Ed McMahon on hosting Star Search
Ed McMahon on Ray Romano on Star Search, and other now-famous winners

Tonight

View Show Page
Ed McMahon on the history of The Tonight Show leading up to Johnny Carson becoming host in 1962

Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The

View Show Page
Ed McMahon on Edward R. Murrow's Person to Person, and on a favorite Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson sketch of his, which spawned a running joke
Ed McMahon on Who Do You Trust? and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson producer Art Stark
Ed McMahon on his and Johnny Carson's first night on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson on October 1, 1962, and on Fred de Cordova eventually taking over as producer
Ed McMahon on his and Johnny Carson's first Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson broadcast, and his "Here's Johnny!" introduction
Ed McMahon on the early set of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Johnny's golf swing, and on filling ninety minutes each night
Ed McMahon on the style and tone of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson as opposed to earlier talk show hosts like Jack Paar, and on how Carson's style evolved over the years
Ed McMahon on first doing The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson live, and late switching to "live to tape," taping a few hours before air
Ed McMahon on what he remembers about the aftermath of the very first Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson broadcast, and on avoiding staff meetings
Ed McMahon on the succession of Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson producers, including Perry Cross, Art Stark, Rudy Tellez, and Fred De Cordova
Ed McMahon on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson theme song, co-written by Paul Anka and Carson
Ed McMahon on his on-screen chemistry with Johnny Carson and Skitch Henderson on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and on Henderson leaving the show
Ed McMahon on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson moving from New York City to Burbank, CA in 1972, and on the show later being shortened to an hour
Ed McMahon on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson going to one hour in 1980, and on cutting back to three nights a week
Ed McMahon on how his role on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson expanded over the years, and on being considered Carson's "second banana"
Ed McMahon on the Carnac "sis-boom-bah" joke on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and on what Carson would do if a joke bombed
Ed McMahon on the famous Ed Ames tomahawk throwing incident on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Ed McMahon on Tiny Tim getting married on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Ed McMahon on Johnny Carson dealing with animals on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Ed McMahon on a 1971 earthquake that occurred while he was in Los Angeles to tape The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and on an aftershock happening live on the air
Ed McMahon on Myrtle Young, the "potato chip lady" appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Ed McMahon on Jimmy Stewart's many Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson appearances, and on Ed and Johnny's fondness for him
Ed McMahon on Michael Landon's last Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson appearance
Ed McMahon on Elizabeth Taylor appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Ed McMahon on what makes a great talk show guest, and on the importance of non-celebrity guests on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Ed McMahon on Lucille Ball appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Ed McMahon on Jack Benny appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Ed McMahon on Freddie Prinze appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and on the various comedians who appeared on the show over the years
Ed McMahon on the musical guests of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, including Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett
Ed McMahon on the various guest hosts of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, including Joan Rivers and David Letterman
Ed McMahon on Johnny Carson announcing he was leaving The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Ed McMahon on the guests during the final weeks of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and on the final episode
Ed McMahon on the second-to-last show for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, featuring Bette Midler and Robin Williams
Ed McMahon on his favorite moments of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Ed McMahon on the legacy of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Ed McMahon on Johnny Carson post-The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson

Who Do You Trust?

View Show Page
Ed McMahon on being announcer for Who Do You Trust? and on meeting Johnny Carson
Ed McMahon on the concept behind the game show Who Do You Trust?, for which he was the announcer and Johnny Carson the host
Ed McMahon on the shooting schedule of Who Do You Trust?, and on juggling several different shows
Ed McMahon on Who Do You Trust? and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson producer Art Stark
Topics

Celebrities in the News

View Topic
Ed McMahon on Tiny Tim getting married on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson

Characters & Catchphrases

View Topic
Ed McMahon on his "Here's Johnny!" introduction on the The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, which started on the first episode of the show

Creative Influences and Inspiration

View Topic
Ed McMahon on early radio announcers he admired, and why he wanted to be an announcer

Historic Events and Social Change

View Topic
Ed McMahon on his activities during World War II
Ed McMahon on flying fighter planes as a Marine in the Korean War

Korean War

View Topic
Ed McMahon on flying fighter planes as a Marine in the Korean War

Memorable Moments on Television

View Topic
Ed McMahon on the famous Ed Ames tomahawk throwing incident on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Ed McMahon on the second-to-last show for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, featuring Bette Midler and Robin Williams

Pivotal Career Moments

View Topic
Ed McMahon on early radio announcers he admired, and why he wanted to be an announcer

Pop Culture

View Topic
Ed McMahon on his "Here's Johnny!" introduction on the The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, which started on the first episode of the show
Ed McMahon on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson theme song, co-written by Paul Anka and Carson
Ed McMahon on Tiny Tim getting married on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson

TV Theme Songs

View Topic
Ed McMahon on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson theme song, co-written by Paul Anka and Carson

War

View Topic
Ed McMahon on his activities during World War II
Ed McMahon on flying fighter planes as a Marine in the Korean War

We Laughed

View Topic
Ed McMahon on the famous Ed Ames tomahawk throwing incident on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson

World War II

View Topic
Ed McMahon on his activities during World War II
Professions

Announcer

View Profession
Ed McMahon on how his role on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson expanded over the years, and on being considered Carson's "second banana"
Ed McMahon on what makes a good announcer

Hosts

View Profession
Ed McMahon on how his role on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson expanded over the years, and on being considered Carson's "second banana"
Ed McMahon on what makes a good announcer
Genres

Game Shows

View Genre
Ed McMahon on being announcer for Who Do You Trust? and on meeting Johnny Carson
Ed McMahon on being the announcer for Who Do You Trust?
Ed McMahon on hosting Star Search

Music Shows & Variety Shows/Specials

View Genre
Ed McMahon on playing a clown on the circus show Big Top, produced by Charles Vanda
Ed McMahon on appearing on the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon

News and Documentary

View Genre
Ed McMahon on Edward R. Murrow's Person to Person, and on a favorite Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson sketch of his, which spawned a running joke

Talk Shows

View Genre
Ed McMahon on Edward R. Murrow's Person to Person, and on a favorite Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson sketch of his, which spawned a running joke
Ed McMahon on being the announcer for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Ed McMahon on being announcer for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Ed McMahon on being the announcer for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Ed McMahon on being the announcer for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Ed McMahon on announcing for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
People

Ed Ames

View Person Page
Ed McMahon on the famous Ed Ames tomahawk throwing incident on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson

Paul Anka

View Person Page
Ed McMahon on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson theme song, co-written by Paul Anka and Carson

Lucille Ball

View Person Page
Ed McMahon on Lucille Ball appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson

Tony Bennett

View Person Page
Ed McMahon on the musical guests of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, including Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett

Jack Benny

View Person Page
Ed McMahon on Jack Benny appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson

Johnny Carson

View Person Page
Ed McMahon on being announcer for Who Do You Trust? and on meeting Johnny Carson
Ed McMahon on Edward R. Murrow's Person to Person, and on a favorite Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson sketch of his, which spawned a running joke
Ed McMahon on the concept behind the game show Who Do You Trust?, for which he was the announcer and Johnny Carson the host
Ed McMahon on the history of The Tonight Show leading up to Johnny Carson becoming host in 1962
Ed McMahon on his and Johnny Carson's first night on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson on October 1, 1962, and on Fred de Cordova eventually taking over as producer
Ed McMahon on his and Johnny Carson's first Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson broadcast, and his "Here's Johnny!" introduction
Ed McMahon on the early set of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Johnny's golf swing, and on filling ninety minutes each night
Ed McMahon on the style and tone of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson as opposed to earlier talk show hosts like Jack Paar, and on how Carson's style evolved over the years
Ed McMahon on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson theme song, co-written by Paul Anka and Carson
Ed McMahon on his on-screen chemistry with Johnny Carson and Skitch Henderson on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and on Henderson leaving the show
Ed McMahon on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson moving from New York City to Burbank, CA in 1972, and on the show later being shortened to an hour
Ed McMahon on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson going to one hour in 1980, and on cutting back to three nights a week
Ed McMahon on how his role on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson expanded over the years, and on being considered Carson's "second banana"
Ed McMahon on the Carnac "sis-boom-bah" joke on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and on what Carson would do if a joke bombed
Ed McMahon on the famous Ed Ames tomahawk throwing incident on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Ed McMahon on Tiny Tim getting married on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Ed McMahon on Johnny Carson announcing he was leaving The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Ed McMahon on the second-to-last show for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, featuring Bette Midler and Robin Williams
Ed McMahon on his favorite moments of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Ed McMahon on the legacy of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson

Fred de Cordova

View Interview Page
Ed McMahon on his and Johnny Carson's first night on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson on October 1, 1962, and on Fred de Cordova eventually taking over as producer
Ed McMahon on the succession of Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson producers, including Perry Cross, Art Stark, Rudy Tellez, and Fred De Cordova

Skitch Henderson

View Interview Page
Ed McMahon on his on-screen chemistry with Johnny Carson and Skitch Henderson on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and on Henderson leaving the show

David Letterman

View Person Page
Ed McMahon on the various guest hosts of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, including Joan Rivers and David Letterman

Jerry Lewis

View Interview Page
Ed McMahon on appearing on the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon

Bette Midler

View Person Page
Ed McMahon on the second-to-last show for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, featuring Bette Midler and Robin Williams

Edward R. Murrow

View Person Page
Ed McMahon on Edward R. Murrow's Person to Person, and on a favorite Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson sketch of his, which spawned a running joke

Jack Paar

View Person Page
Ed McMahon on the style and tone of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson as opposed to earlier talk show hosts like Jack Paar, and on how Carson's style evolved over the years

Freddie Prinze

View Person Page
Ed McMahon on Freddie Prinze appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and on the various comedians who appeared on the show over the years

Joan Rivers

View Interview Page
Ed McMahon on the various guest hosts of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, including Joan Rivers and David Letterman

Ginger Rogers

View Person Page
Ed McMahon on doing a show about Ginger Rogers on WCAU, and on his local show Five Minutes More

Ray Romano

View Person Page
Ed McMahon on Ray Romano on Star Search, and other now-famous winners

Frank Sinatra

View Person Page
Ed McMahon on the musical guests of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, including Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett

Jimmy Stewart

View Person Page
Ed McMahon on Jimmy Stewart's many Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson appearances, and on Ed and Johnny's fondness for him

Elizabeth Taylor

View Person Page
Ed McMahon on Elizabeth Taylor appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson

Tiny Tim

View Person Page
Ed McMahon on Tiny Tim getting married on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson

Robin Williams

View Person Page
Ed McMahon on the second-to-last show for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, featuring Bette Midler and Robin Williams

All Interviews

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