Trivia: The Tonight Show


  • Colbert Bump: Doing stand-up on the show was a major career boost, and being called over to the couch pretty much guaranteed overnight success. More recent comedians to get the honor include Drew Carey, Ellen DeGeneres, and Jeff Foxworthy.
  • Edited for Syndication: In 1983, a Clip Show series called Carson's Comedy Classics was offered to local stations. Each half-hour episode consisted of two or three extended segments, usually "Mighty Carson Art Players" skits and/or segments with Carson characters such as Carnac and Aunt Blabby, plus shorter segments (i.e. commercial spoofs).
  • Executive Meddling: The entire debacle that NBC created by trying to reshuffle their schedule by moving The Jay Leno Show from an hour at 10 to a half hour at 11:30 and moving Tonight and Late Night back half an hour. It was unclear if Last Call would remain on the air.
  • Hey, It's That Voice!: The original sidekick/announcer was a young man named Gene Rayburn, and the sidekick to Jack Parr's era was Hugh Downs.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: With selected episodes officially being released on DVD, Carson Productions is becoming increasingly insistent on having unauthorized YouTube Carson clips removed from the site.
    • To their credit, Carson Productions has been releasing a good number of complete episodes (usually the mid 70's 90 minute episodes) on YouTube for free viewing.
    • Thanks to the 2010 Tonight Show debacle, NBC will never release any DVDs or digital downloads of The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien. In fact, the only acknowledgment of the show at all as of late seems to be a split-second showing of O'Brien's name as part of a list of past Tonight Show hosts that was seen during various promos for Jimmy Fallon's then-upcoming premiere.
  • Missing Episode: Much of Steve Allen's tenure is gone, although the premiere seems to exist.
    Allen: In case you're just joining us, this is Tonight, and I can't think of too much to tell you about it, but I want to give you the bad news first: this program is going to go on forever.note 
    • Much of the first 10 years of Carson's version, due to tape reuse. 1972-92 are intact.
    • On The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien, the episode with Teri Hatcher as a guest was never aired; it was never finished because Conan was rushed to the hospital for a concussion that he suffered during a foot race with Hatcher.
  • The Pete Best: Branford Marsalis was the bandleader before Kevin Eubanks.
  • Technology Marches On: In July of 2013 it was announced that Johnny Carson Tonight Show interviews would be available on iTunes.
  • What Could Have Been: Originally, Leno's post-Tonight project was to have been an American Top Gear. Leno actually turned down this idea when it was initially proposed to him, realizing that what made Top Gear work was its non-commercial carriage on The BBC...and an NBC version would be filled with Product Placement and Executive Meddling. There was also some concern from BBC America that an American version would cannibalize ratings of the original on BBC America, where it's very popular. An American version did eventually premiere on the History Channel.
    • The Tonight Show Starring David Letterman could well have been the case, but Letterman assumed he'd be the successor, as did Carson. Leno (or his manager, Helen Kushnick; nobody's actually really sure) actively but quietly campaigned to get the job from the people that actually made the decision, however, so he got it and Letterman went to CBS.
  • Writer Revolt: Jack walked off during the February 11, 1960 show after discovering that NBC censored a joke the previous night regarding a lady looking for the "water closet" who was directed to a wedding chapel due to her only using the initials "W.C." (the network cut into a news report over the joke). His sidekick, Hugh Downs, took over for the remainder of that telecast. Led to a Funny Moment when Parr returned a few weeks later with the words "...Now as I was saying..."
    • Since NBC's last bits of Executive Meddling, Conan devoted his monologues to openly bashing NBC, and did so right up until the Grand Finale.
    • There's an element of Could Say It But here, as Conan had been given a gag order prohibiting him from badmouthing the network. He took to lampshading this in his last few shows.
    • One of the writers did a sketch so against the network it seems Conan didn't want to say it.
    • Conan deliberately ratcheted up the cost of his show, thanks to a contract loophole that allowed him to do whatever the hell he wanted on NBC's tab. Starting with a Bugatti Veyron mouse and the 2009 Kentucky derby winner in a mink coat. Of course, most of it wasn't real... except the expensive songs and their royalties.