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."

Highlights
Ed McMahon on being announcer for Who Do You Trust? and on meeting Johnny Carson
06:32
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
03:54
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
04:31
Ed McMahon on the famous Ed Ames tomahawk throwing incident on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
03:00
Ed McMahon on the second-to-last show for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, featuring Bette Midler and Robin Williams
05:48
Ed McMahon on hosting Star Search
04:13
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
06:16

Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon

View Show Page
Ed McMahon on appearing on the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon
03:42

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
04:12

Star Search

View Show Page
Ed McMahon on hosting Star Search
04:13
Ed McMahon on Ray Romano on Star Search, and other now-famous winners
03:12

Tonight

View Show Page
Ed McMahon on the history of The Tonight Show leading up to Johnny Carson becoming host in 1962
03:29

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
04:12
Ed McMahon on Who Do You Trust? and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson producer Art Stark
01:19
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
05:20
Ed McMahon on his and Johnny Carson's first Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson broadcast, and his "Here's Johnny!" introduction
05:18
Ed McMahon on the early set of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Johnny's golf swing, and on filling ninety minutes each night
04:38
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
08:10
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
04:23
Ed McMahon on what he remembers about the aftermath of the very first Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson broadcast, and on avoiding staff meetings
02:29
Ed McMahon on the succession of Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson producers, including Perry Cross, Art Stark, Rudy Tellez, and Fred De Cordova
01:57
Ed McMahon on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson theme song, co-written by Paul Anka and Carson
02:04
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
03:54
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
04:55
Ed McMahon on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson going to one hour in 1980, and on cutting back to three nights a week
04:34
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"
06:26
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
04:56
Ed McMahon on the famous Ed Ames tomahawk throwing incident on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
03:00
Ed McMahon on Tiny Tim getting married on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
03:14
Ed McMahon on Johnny Carson dealing with animals on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
02:16
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
02:10
Ed McMahon on Myrtle Young, the "potato chip lady" appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
01:25
Ed McMahon on Jimmy Stewart's many Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson appearances, and on Ed and Johnny's fondness for him
03:27
Ed McMahon on Michael Landon's last Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson appearance
00:51
Ed McMahon on Elizabeth Taylor appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
01:05
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
02:22
Ed McMahon on Lucille Ball appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
01:24
Ed McMahon on Jack Benny appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
01:56
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
04:31
Ed McMahon on the musical guests of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, including Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett
01:49
Ed McMahon on the various guest hosts of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, including Joan Rivers and David Letterman
03:49
Ed McMahon on Johnny Carson announcing he was leaving The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
04:06
Ed McMahon on the guests during the final weeks of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and on the final episode
02:50
Ed McMahon on the second-to-last show for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, featuring Bette Midler and Robin Williams
05:48
Ed McMahon on his favorite moments of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
08:25
Ed McMahon on the legacy of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
04:44
Ed McMahon on Johnny Carson post-The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
01:35

Who Do You Trust?

View Show Page
Ed McMahon on being announcer for Who Do You Trust? and on meeting Johnny Carson
06:32
Ed McMahon on the concept behind the game show Who Do You Trust?, for which he was the announcer and Johnny Carson the host
04:01
Ed McMahon on the shooting schedule of Who Do You Trust?, and on juggling several different shows
02:34
Ed McMahon on Who Do You Trust? and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson producer Art Stark
01:19
Topics

Celebrities in the News

View Topic
Ed McMahon on Tiny Tim getting married on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
03:14

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
01:01

Creative Influences and Inspiration

View Topic
Ed McMahon on early radio announcers he admired, and why he wanted to be an announcer
03:39

Historic Events and Social Change

View Topic
Ed McMahon on his activities during World War II
04:14
Ed McMahon on flying fighter planes as a Marine in the Korean War
01:27

Korean War

View Topic
Ed McMahon on flying fighter planes as a Marine in the Korean War
01:27

Memorable Moments on Television

View Topic
Ed McMahon on the famous Ed Ames tomahawk throwing incident on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
03:00
Ed McMahon on the second-to-last show for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, featuring Bette Midler and Robin Williams
05:48

Pivotal Career Moments

View Topic
Ed McMahon on early radio announcers he admired, and why he wanted to be an announcer
03:39

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
01:01
Ed McMahon on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson theme song, co-written by Paul Anka and Carson
02:04
Ed McMahon on Tiny Tim getting married on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
03:14

TV Theme Songs

View Topic
Ed McMahon on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson theme song, co-written by Paul Anka and Carson
02:04

War

View Topic
Ed McMahon on his activities during World War II
04:14
Ed McMahon on flying fighter planes as a Marine in the Korean War
01:27

We Laughed

View Topic
Ed McMahon on the famous Ed Ames tomahawk throwing incident on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
03:00

World War II

View Topic
Ed McMahon on his activities during World War II
04:14
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"
06:26
Ed McMahon on what makes a good announcer
01:50

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"
06:26
Ed McMahon on what makes a good announcer
01:50
Genres

Game Shows

View Genre
Ed McMahon on being announcer for Who Do You Trust? and on meeting Johnny Carson
06:31
Ed McMahon on being the announcer for Who Do You Trust?
07:54
Ed McMahon on hosting Star Search
04:13

Music Shows & Variety Shows/Specials

View Genre
Ed McMahon on playing a clown on the circus show Big Top, produced by Charles Vanda
06:16
Ed McMahon on appearing on the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon
03:43

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
04:12

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
04:12
Ed McMahon on being the announcer for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
18:46
Ed McMahon on being announcer for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
27:54
Ed McMahon on being the announcer for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
28:04
Ed McMahon on being the announcer for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
28:20
Ed McMahon on announcing for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
20:32
People

Ed Ames

View Person Page
Ed McMahon on the famous Ed Ames tomahawk throwing incident on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
03:00

Paul Anka

View Person Page
Ed McMahon on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson theme song, co-written by Paul Anka and Carson
02:04

Lucille Ball

View Person Page
Ed McMahon on Lucille Ball appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
11:24

Tony Bennett

View Person Page
Ed McMahon on the musical guests of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, including Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett
01:49

Jack Benny

View Person Page
Ed McMahon on Jack Benny appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
01:56

Johnny Carson

View Person Page
Ed McMahon on being announcer for Who Do You Trust? and on meeting Johnny Carson
06:32
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
04:12
Ed McMahon on the concept behind the game show Who Do You Trust?, for which he was the announcer and Johnny Carson the host
04:01
Ed McMahon on the history of The Tonight Show leading up to Johnny Carson becoming host in 1962
03:29
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
05:20
Ed McMahon on his and Johnny Carson's first Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson broadcast, and his "Here's Johnny!" introduction
05:18
Ed McMahon on the early set of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Johnny's golf swing, and on filling ninety minutes each night
04:39
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
08:10
Ed McMahon on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson theme song, co-written by Paul Anka and Carson
02:04
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
03:54
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
04:55
Ed McMahon on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson going to one hour in 1980, and on cutting back to three nights a week
04:34
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"
06:26
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
04:56
Ed McMahon on the famous Ed Ames tomahawk throwing incident on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
03:00
Ed McMahon on Tiny Tim getting married on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
03:14
Ed McMahon on Johnny Carson announcing he was leaving The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
04:06
Ed McMahon on the second-to-last show for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, featuring Bette Midler and Robin Williams
05:48
Ed McMahon on his favorite moments of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
08:25
Ed McMahon on the legacy of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
04:44

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
05:20
Ed McMahon on the succession of Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson producers, including Perry Cross, Art Stark, Rudy Tellez, and Fred De Cordova
01:58

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
03:54

Michael Landon

View Person Page
Ed McMahon on Michael Landon's last Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson appearance
00:51

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
03:49

Jerry Lewis

View Interview Page
Ed McMahon on appearing on the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon
03:42

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
05:48

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
04:12

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
08:10

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
04:31

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
03:49

Ginger Rogers

View Person Page
Ed McMahon on doing a show about Ginger Rogers on WCAU, and on his local show Five Minutes More
03:56

Ray Romano

View Person Page
Ed McMahon on Ray Romano on Star Search, and other now-famous winners
03:12

Frank Sinatra

View Person Page
Ed McMahon on the musical guests of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, including Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett
01:49

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
03:27

Elizabeth Taylor

View Person Page
Ed McMahon on Elizabeth Taylor appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
01:05

Tiny Tim

View Person Page
Ed McMahon on Tiny Tim getting married on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
03:14

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
05:48

All Interviews

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