Johnny Carson served as host for the iconic, late-night television series The Tonight Show for 30 years. During that time, Carson entertained generations of American television viewers with his down-to-earth style, casual approach, and quick-witted humor. The Tonight Show was already a big success when Carson took over from the retiring Jack Paar, but Carson took the show to the next level. His style, and grace on camera has been mimicked by many late-night talk show hosts, who have credited Carson as their mentor.
Carson was born thousands of miles away from the glitz of New York, and Los Angeles, in the city of Corning, Iowa, in 1925. Carson began his entertainment career at the age of 14 when he appeared at county fairs as a magician, which was his first love. His family moved to the state of Nebraska when Carson was a young man, and he served as a communications officer for the U.S. Navy during the tail end of World War II. His broadcast career began in 1950 in Omaha, Nebraska before moving to Los Angeles, and landing a job with a local television station.
Carson officially became host of The Tonight Show on October 1, 1962. The show was based in New York City until 1972 when, at Carson's request, the show was permanently moved to the Los Angeles area. Carson hosted his show in Burbank for the next 21 years, where he perfected his style and approach to his guests. It was considered an honor to be invited to The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson.
Carson was a true entertainer. He performed many skits during his reign, where he dressed up in costume, and played ridiculous characters, which is something today's late-night hosts do not do. Carson was never afraid to laugh at himself.