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Steve Allen (1953-1957)
- (Nothing as of yet, but here just in case.)
Jack Paar (1957-1962)
- (Nothing as of yet, but here just in case.)
Johnny Carson (1962-1992)
- 1965: Supposedly, the longest continual laughter in live TV goes to a Carson Tonight episode. His guest was actor/singer Ed Ames, who claimed that in the course of his work he had learned how to throw a tomahawk. Carson produced a human outline on a board, and Ames lobbed the tomahawk at it. It hit the board successfully, but slammed in right at the figure's crotch, starting the thunderous laughter. When the laughter started to die down, Carson quipped "I didn't even know you were Jewish!" starting it all up again. (Even funnier still was Carson's followup remark: "Welcome to Frontier Bris!")
- 1968: The Dragnet parody with Carson and Jack Webb. "Clean copper clappers."
- 1969: George Gobel's appearance, put in the impossible position of having to follow Bob Hope and Dean Martin. "Did you ever get the feeling that the world was a tuxedo and you were a pair of brown shoes?"
- Of course, the best part of that interview was how Dean Martin kept discreetly tapping his cigarette ashes into Gobel's drink!
- November 1979: Prior to Thanksgiving, Johnny talked with Doc Severinsen about their respective plans for the holiday. Before long the two of them had each other, and the audience, in stitches.
- 1981: Johnny acting out how Walter Cronkite should have done his final newscast, ranging from asking to stop the "tickety-tickety" noise after 19 years to reading a story as Porky Pig.
Mount St. Helens erupted again. Blew the top clean off. Th-th-th-th-that's all folks!
- "I have certain guidelines, but I would give about a year's pay to peek under there." (...Which added fuel to the fire of the Zsa Zsa Gabor Pussy Cat Urban Legend.)
- All of his pie skits:
- "Hi. Do you mind if I talk to you for just a minute? I just want to say a few words about Diarrhea-" *SPLAT* *SPLAT* *SPLAT*
- "Come on, I dare ya. I dare ya to knock this battery off my shoulder." (hit with pie) "Come on, I double dare ya." (hit with two more pies)
- "Sir, how do you spell relief?" "How do I spell relief? I spell it R-O-L-" (hit with pie) "E ..."
- "You're away from home and your wallet is stolen. All your cash is gone. What WILL you do. What WILL you-" (hit with pie)
- 3 words: Sis Boom Bah.
- Any of the Charles Grodin interviews. So many great passive-aggressive remarks (Played for Laughs, of course).
Carson: Shoulda started out $9.95, then this would be $4.65 by now!
- One of the best running gags involved Carson deriding Grodin's book because it was $18.95. Grodin asked, "Is that too much, for a lifetime of experience?" Carson snarked, "Well I suppose not, if you're... Mother Teresa." This comment would be referenced numerous times in subsequent interviews, and one of Grodin's last appearances, he had a paperback re-issue out that was only $9.95. Carson said, "Well now we're talkin'!"
- In 1992, David Letterman was a guest shortly after it was announced that Leno would be inheriting The Tonight Show instead of Letterman (the person Carson wanted). One of the first questions Carson asked Letterman was: "How pissed off are you?"
- After claiming that looking into an animal's eyes and speaking to it will calm it, Johnny is swiped at by a cheetah and runs into Ed's arms. Funny every time.
- The night before Johnny's final show, Robin Williams was one of the guests. After being introduced and greeted by Johnny and Ed, he goes off and improvs, as per usual. At one point, after making a particularly off-color remark, he quips, "If that gets bleeped, good luck!" Chuckling, Carson replies, "We're outta here after tomorrow, what do I care?" Williams almost collapses out of his seat in laughter.
- Johnny's surly attitude in any "Carnac the Magnificent". In one instance, after the usual long introduction by Ed, Johnny said in an annoyed tone, "Let's get on with it."
- The time Ed was allegedly drunk before Joan Embery was brought out.
Johnny: (smiling wide) You really think you're fooling everybody, don't you?
- Barney Odum had his dog Flatfoot on the show, who could climb trees. Bandleader Doc Severinsen said before the show that if the dog could truly climb the tree on the set, he would kiss Flatfoot on an unnamed body part (use your imagination). This was brought up a few times on the episode itself.
- The parody of American Express Traveler's Checks commercials with Johnny as Karl Malden. Specifically, the one where the couple is in a Japanese hot tub and is unable to pay because they don't have Traveler's Checks.
Woman: (glassy-eyed) What will we do?
(Johnny emerges from the hot tub water, fully clothed)
Johnny: What will they do?! What will they do?! (cracks smile)
- This bit:
Husband: (comes into the bedroom) I brought the Colonel [KFC] home!
Wife: I've got a surprise for you: So did I!
(pulls back bed sheets, and Johnny dressed as Colonel Sanders pops up and waves)
- It's been said by more than one viewer that Johnny is funnier when he bombs, because his reactions to the substandard material are priceless, and Ed McMahon's off-screen chortling only enhances the experience.
- Just one example: He did a sketch where he put the camera on random people in the audience and narrated who their character was in a soap opera. Every time a joke didn't get a lot of response, Johnny added: "Nothing.", which did cause audience laughter.
- Another time, he had a segment called "Believe it or Stuff it". The crowd wasn't really responding to the first few, so Johnny said "Wow, this bit really sucks!"
- The interview with four-year-old spelling bee star Rohan Varavadekar had plenty of these. At one point, Johnny asked Rohan if he knew when he was born. Rohan replied: "October 23, 1925."
Johnny: (after much audience laughter) That was a long time ago, wasn't it?
- One sketch had Johnny trying out new tech products. One of them was a long-range microphone. When he pointed it towards Disney Land:
"Little to the left, Minnie! Higher! Higher!"
- Two moments from Don Rickles come to mind:
- In one sketch, Johnny was in an Asian spa, and Don (who wasn't supposed to be in the sketch) wandered in and wanted to massage Johnny ("Can I do it a couple minutes? Just gimme a break, I'm so lonely!"). Johnny retaliated by throwing Don into a nearby hot tub.
- Don was a guest on a night when Johnny was off. When Johnny returned the next night, he noticed that his cigarette ashes box on his desk was broken, and wanted to know what happened. Doc informed him that Don broke it when he was on the show. Rather than just wait until Don was a guest, Johnny stopped the show to go next door where Don was filming an episode of C.P.O. Sharkey and caught him totally by surprise.
Jay Leno (1992-2009/2010-2014)
- The fake interview with the characters from Brokeback Mountain.
- Chris Evans appears to talk about his character in The Iceman, and eventually discuss his '70s wardrobe in his role. A picture of Jay from the '70s is then brought up - cue Chris laughing hysterically and mimicking his ridiculous pose.
- "Does This Impress Ed Asner"
Conan O'Brien (2009-2010)
- The foreign news report describing the whole mess.
- Robin Williams singing an Irish jig that told NBC to go fuck themselves many times over, and Conan jumping up to dance along to it.
- January 20, 2010: Bugatti Veyron Mouse!
- "Before Photoshop", but particularly when Conan showed a photo of Larry King at his desk, and the audience laughed. Conan found it amusing that they were laughing at an untouched photo and not the punchline.
- Pretty much every moment when Triumph visited the L.A. dog hotel:
Triumph: Here at the "D Pet Hotel", where the "d", of course, stands for "dog-owning douchebags", lavishing their tiny-brained companions with exquisite memories to be cherished for 30 to 45 seconds, according to most experts. Not since the bank bailout has money been more wisely spent, proving that the "idle rich" are not idle at all. They are busy, 24-7, looking for new ways to piss away their money.
- A dog pukes on the floor (likely out of nervousness), and Triumph offers to clean it up by eating it.
- The rich woman with a French accent who brought in her dog.
Triumph: I'm just letting the audience get a good look at you so they can hate you.
- Triumph, on a rich dog:
Triumph: She likes to be hand fed... and hand pooped. Her poop must not touch the floor! Her poop is like the American flag!
- Triumph comes across a dog who looks like him, and proclaims it to be his long-lost mother.
Triumph: I'm sorry, mother! I'm sorry I disappointed you!
- The dog on the treadmill, who quickly is freaked out by it.
Triumph: Look at him love it!
- Portraits of various dogs are on the wall, and of course Triumph comments on them. He calls it the "Gallery of Shame".
Triumph: You've got a lot of portraits up here of various dogs that all look moderately embarrassed.
Woman employee: Aw, he's cute.
Triumph: No, he's re-thinking his whole life.
- Triumph wants clarification if the Taco Bell dog ever was a regular at the hotel. He heard he took amyl nitrate and had a St. Bernard choke him.
Triumph: By the way, do you still provide that service?
Woman employee: No.
Man employee: Not anymore.
- Triumph comes across an "uber suite" with one female dog in it, and wants to put the moves on her by showing a variety of Parallel Porn Titles of famous Hollywood movies (see main entry).
- During the final week, Conan showed a classic Tonight Show moment each night. On the first three nights, the opening montage contained the clip of Conan sliding and hitting his head on the studio floor. Conan eventually called them out on it: "STOP showing my concussion! CUT IT OUT! My wife hates that! "You almost died!""
- Early on, Conan visited various shops near the studio. One of them was a place called "FastSigns", where he got a banner made to advertise the show. It had two tigers on it, and the text "Every night is ladies' night" and "Free salad with every purchase". Andy exclaimed, "We're gonna have to start making salads!"
- One of the first, if not the first, "Andy'll Try It" skit had Andy trying bacon vodka. His verdict: "Oh God, it's awful." Then Andy continued drinking it anyway.
- When Conan interviewed Kevin Nealon, Kevin mentioned how he had food poisoning recently, and wishes that your body would tell you what it was that made you sick as you're throwing up. He demonstrated: "CURRY CHICKEN! (mimes barfing)" Conan observed that sounded like Jimmy Stewart:
Conan: "Curry chicken, Mr. Potter!"
- On the 8/28 episode, Conan paid tribute to KNBC reporter Doug Kriegel:
Announcer: Now, a report from NBC's Emmy-award winning journalist Doug Kriegel.
(cut to Doug at a park picnic)
Doug: What do you think of that pizza?
Teenage boy: It's really awesome pizza.
Doug: ...That's good.
Announcer: That was a report from NBC's Emmy-award winning journalist Doug Kriegel.
- In one "In the Year 3000", the start was a little different than usual:
Conan: I think it's time we looked... into the future.
Andy: (incredulously) The future, Conan?!
Conan: (amused) ...That's right, Andy. We rehearsed this!
- In the same sketch, when the futuristic robes lowered from the ceiling onto Conan, Andy, and La Bamba's heads, La Bamba accidentally leaned the wrong way (likely from looking at the monitors and getting confused) and it bumped him on the head, causing Conan to burst out laughing. Then when La Bamba went to sing "In the year 3000...", he briefly lost his composure.
- When Nick Cannon was a guest, he offered licorice to Conan and previous guest Bill Maher. Maher turned him down, saying "Licorice is shit." But he added a kind word: "But you look good eating it!"
Jimmy Fallon (2014-present)
- Jimmy's first night started with a bang. Besides him and Will Smith chronicling a history of hip-hop dances (ala Justin Timberlake and his and Jimmy's "History of Rap"), and U2 performing on the roof of 30 Rock, we have a moment where Jimmy mentions a "friend" who says he'd never host the Tonight Show, saying they owe him $100. Cue Robert De Niro, Tina Fey, Joe Namath, Rudy Giuliani, Mariah Carey, Tracy Morgan, Joan Rivers (in her 1st Tonight Show appearance, of any kind, since being banned from the show in 1986; the ban was kept by Leno out of respect to Johnny Carson), Kim Kardashian, Seth Rogen, Lindsay Lohan, Sarah Jessica Parker, Mike Tyson, and Lady Gaga all throwing crumpled C-Notes on the desk, culminating with Stephen Colbert pouring a bucket of 10,000 pennies on Jimmy's head, ending with "WELCOME TO 11:30, BITCH".
- Brian Williams raps (transplanted from Late Night)
Brian Williams: This is spooking me out, because there's a guy who, for a job, for months, has been sitting in an edit room looking at images of me and finding individual words. I have never said "hippity", never. And I know that he works here, intellectually, I have never met- like you have, I have never met him. If you're on my staff, I know your hopes, your fears, your dreams, I know all about your family, um... your staff, I imagine, is a much more, y'know, anonymous place-
Jimmy Fallon: (laughing) What are you talking about?
Brian Williams: You've told me, these are little people to you. (Jimmy laughs) But there's a guy who I've seen in the cafeteria, there's a guy who I've seen in elevators, who has looked at my face for a living, and it's spooky, it's frightening.
- And now, "Baby Got Back". If you listen carefully, you can hear the audience singing along on the "anaconda" line!
- Whenever Hashtag the Panda is brought out, a hilarious Overly Long Gag is in the cards as Jimmy and the band make the "bear" dance again...and again...and again.
- This bit after one "Thank You Note" about protein bars just being glorified chocolate bars:
Fallon: (in jock tone) All I eat is protein bars!
Higgins: (also in jock tone) That's it, man. I eat Monkey Milk protein bars.
Fallon: Nothing but Monkey Milk protein bars. They're the best ones. You get Monkey Milk, that's the best protein bar.
Higgins: If you don't get it, you're a fool. You're a damn fool if you don't get Monkey Milk. You're a fool.
Fallon: Don't call me a fool! I'm just saying-
Higgins: What do you get?? Do you get Monkey Milk?
Fallon: I don't know what kind of protein bar I got.
Higgins: Ehhh, you should, if you don't know what's going in your body, then you're some kind of fool. I went to Cinnabon the other day, I got the tiny little ones.
Fallon: You do?
Higgins: Yeah, about eight, nine of 'em, squeeze them up in the tube, shove them down my throat, two- (cracks up) I figured I'd down the Monkey Milk!
- A spectacular Brick Joke: Hugh Jackman mentions in an interview that you should never let Aussies stay at your house, as "they will never leave," and he demonstrates by crashing on Jimmy's couch for a few minutes. The next night, Jimmy comes out for his monologue, and casually looks over to the couch. Sure enough...
- A truly spectacular Epic Fail on Jimmy's part: when he had Nicole Kidman on as a guest, she tells him the story of their disastrous blind date...in that he didn't realize that it was a date and had spent the night playing video games and eating snacks, accidentally ignoring her. He literally fell out of his chair as everyone cracked up. Both Patton Oswalt (the next guest after her) and Jude Law spent part of their appearances reminding him.
- One "In Reply To" had a joke about Chipotle. Steve asked Jimmy if he eats Chipotle in his new truck, and Jimmy got confused how you could eat a burrito one-handed while driving. Then he took the joke one step further by saying he gets a wearable trough and tells the cashier to "load it up". And he also pays without using his hands, by swiping his Google Glass. The absurd visual it puts in your head is hilarious.
- Wheel of Impressions with Kevin Spacey. Among some of the best highlights are Spacey's spot-on impression of Johnny Carson:
Kevin Spacey: [as Carson] A lot of people are dressing up as ghosts and witches, goblins and vampires. But this year, Iíve decided Iím going as the scariest creature in the world: my ex-wife. [raucous laughter from everyone, including Fallon] Oh, and I scare the kids, too.
Spacey: (answering the phone) Yes? Most ridiculous sketch ever?
- ...or Spacey outdoing Jimmy in Michael Caine impressions.
- Spacey appeared on the show again and played Phone Booth. Pointing out how stupid (but fun) Jimmy's games are is nothing new (see Bo Burnham's takedown of Lip Sync Battle), but Spacey is so determined to point out just how stupid getting shoved into a phone booth with Keegan-Michael Key and Big Bird is.
- Christina Aguilera's eerily accurate impression of Britney Spears singing "This Little Pig".
- Jimmy trolls The Roots by convincing them into watching the Fifty Shades of Grey trailer...not knowing that he snuck in a Screamer Prank.
- When the show spent a week at Universal Studios in Orlando, Jimmy convinces some of The Roots to ride Dr. Doom's Fearfall. Hilarity Ensues and Damon cusses Jimmy out to high heaven.
- Jimmy and Steve talking about Monster Cables.
- Jimmy invites kids to write skits, with the prompt "Write what you think a film called Magic Mike would be about," and then invites Channing Tatum to do dramatic readings of said skits:
Channing Tatum: [deadpan] "Yes, I am Magic Mike. I'm like regular Mike, except magic."
- Jimmy and Blake Shelton doing the Whisper Challenge
Blake Shelton: *after telling Jimmy the name Benedict Cumberbatch* That doesn't even mean anything!
- Similarly, Jimmy taking Blake out for sushi when he's never eaten sushi before. Blake is less than enthusiastic (especially since Jimmy throws in all of the more disgusting dishes, like sea urchins).
- The September 2015 Good Burger sketch, perfectly replicating the layout, style and humor of the original shorts while also bringing back stars Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell.
- The skit "Real People, Fake Arms" with Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels as burger restaurant employees. Of special note is the moment when Jeff Daniels gets Jimmy a shake, but the shake machine is so unexpectedly powerful that it blasts the cup out of Daniels's fake arms.
- Given Creed was about to get released, Jimmy would welcome it WITH ARMS WIDE OPEN, UNDER THE SUNLIGHT... (complete with Pearl Jam nod). And later guest Billie Lourd decided to join in the Yarling.
- In the 2/18/16 episode, Vince Vaughn observed how nobody has ever won against Jimmy in "Box of Lies". He became suspicious that everything Jimmy did during their interview was merely "info reading" to help him win the game. In a Crowning Moment of Awesome, Vince brought his A-game to "Box of Lies" and stumped Jimmy with his poker face and descriptions. The whole ordeal can be viewed here and here.
- During the "Whisper Challenge" with Carol Burnett:
Jimmy: "Me Tarzan, you Jane."
Carol: Piss off...?
- When Eugene Levy was Jimmy's partner in "Pictionary", Jimmy had the phrase "cat got your tongue". Jimmy drew a cat and a tongue, and Eugene still couldn't quite get it.
Jimmy: ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! CAT TONGUE, CAT TONGUE, THE CAT GOT YOUR TONGUE, CAT GOT- THE ONLY PHRASE WITH THE WORDS "CAT" AND "TONGUE" IN IT! Mona Lisa! Mona Lisa!
Eugene: I would've got it!
Jimmy: A complete nightmare!
Eugene: Another ten minutes, I would've had it!
- "Kid Letters" from the 11/16/16 episode:
"Dear little Jimmy, my name is Koen Chacoband, I'm in 5th grade, when I was in 4th grade I just started watching your show. It seems interesting. P.S.: YMG (Yo My Goodness) Nerds Rule! Stay in school. (Hey that rhyms!) #Pepperoni = Pizza = Life = Heavens of Awesomeness = GODS of Coolness = ...TACOS... (Give a evil look at the camera when you say tacos) Peace out, guard up, guard down, KOEN."
- One monologue joke in February 2017 was about a women's strike. Jimmy showed a clip of what a day without women would be like: Cue a clip from Vampire's Kiss of Nicolas Cage's character slumping down the street while moaning in agony, "OHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!"
- Jimmy and Elijah Wood getting sidetracked in a deep discussion of The Bachelor when it is revealed that the latter is friends with Nick Viall.
Elijah: I can't believe I'm having this conversation!
- Jimmy and Steve break down during "Thank You Notes" on 3/24/17:
Jimmy: (doing Trump impression) Gazongas.
Steve: (laughing) Going down the tubers! (Jimmy laughs) Where's it goin'?
Jimmy: Goin' down the tubers.
Jimmy: Oh man...
Steve: That's the president!
(Jimmy tries to move onto the next Thank You note, but the music stops as he keeps laughing)
Steve: ...Of the UNITED STATES!
Jimmy: Oh my gosh!
Steve: Goin' down the... (laughs) (miming pulling a truck horn) Meep-meep!
Steve: What the F?! Unbelievable! This is REAL! (laughs)