As Johnny Carson’s co-host, Ed McMahon spent 30 years by the late-night television icon’s side on The Tonight Show, introducing him thousands of times with his signature line, “Heeeere’s Johnny!”
But as McMahon recalled, he had to learn when — and when not — to share his jokes. That meant finding out the hard way at least one time. How did Carson react when McMahon ended up “wrecking his gag”?
Ed McMahon and Johnny Carson | Gene Arias/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal/Getty Images
How Ed McMahon ruined Johnny Carson’s joke
McMahon wrote about his time on The Tonight Show in a book called Here’s Johnny. He said he was experienced enough when he began working with Carson to stay in his lane as co-host. However, there was one time McMahon remembered getting in Carson’s comedic way.
“Although selective zingers from me did work, I always knew my place on the show, especially after one painful moment in our New York days,” he wrote. He said Carson was demonstrating an anti-mosquito spray and said, “I hear that mosquitoes go only for really passionate people.”
McMahon wrote that his response to the set-up was almost reflexive and he exclaimed, “There’s another one!” Then, he slapped his wrist. As it turned out, Carson was setting the joke up for himself, and McMahon ended up “wrecking Johnny’s gag.”
According to McMahon, he apologized during the next commercial break. “That’s okay, Ed,” he recalled Carson replying. “You’ll be able to do that all you want in your new job at Bayonne Chevrolet.”
That was a joke, of course, and McMahon stayed with Carson throughout his time as host of The Tonight Show. But he said he learned, “I had to pretend laughing was my whole job.”
Ed McMahon said being Johnny Carson’s co-host was a ‘challenging role’
In Here’s Johnny, McMahon wrote that he had to be careful about when to share his humor on The Tonight Show. “Most of the time on the show, I knew when to talk and when to keep quiet, even though it was often hard to keep my mouth shut,” he said. Apparently, it wasn’t always easy playing co-host to such a charismatic host as Carson.
“Being [Carson’s] sidekick was a challenging role,” McMahon wrote. Since he’d already had his own shows by then, there were times when he said he had to “stop [himself] from responding to something [Carson] said.”
“I had to help him but …
Source:: Showbiz Cheat Sheet