Personal Information

Born John William Carson in Corning, Iowa, Oct. 23, 1925

Parents: Homer "Kit" Carson, a power-company manager, and Ruth Hook Carson (both deceased)

Brother: Dick Carson. Director of "Wheel of Fortune"; younger than Carson.

Three sons:

Christopher Carson. Golf pro. Born c. 1950; mother Jody Wolcott.

Richard Wolcott Carson. Aka Rick Carson. Born June 1952; died in car accident June 21, 1991; mother Jody Wolcott

Cory Carson. Guitarist. Born c. 1953; mother Jody Wolcott.


Joan Carson Buckley (nee Wolcott). Aka Jody Carson. Married 1949; divorced 1963 (Carson obtained a Mexican divorce)

Joanne Carson (nee Copeland). Married August 1963; divorced 1972

Joanna Carson (nee Holland). Born c. 1941; married 1972; divorced 1983; received $20 million in cash and property in divorce settlement from Carson.

Alexis Carson (nee Mass). Aka Alex Carson. Former secretary. Married on June 20, 1987

Early Life and Career

Grew up in Norfolk, Neb.

Performed ventriloquism and magic as "The Great Carsoni" at Elks, Moose and Redmen Lodges from age 14 in Norfolk, Neb.

Attended Norfolk High School in Nebraska (1943). Yearbook awarded him an A in humor.

Attended University of Nebraska (BA 1949).

Served as ensign in the U.S. Navy during WWII

Co-chairman to the Garden State Bank in Hawaiian Gardens, Calif.

President of Carson Productions

1948: Radio announcer, KFAB, Lincoln, Neb.

1948: Moved to WOW, WOW-TV (show called "The Squirrels Nest") in Omaha

1950: Became announcer of station KNXT, Los Angeles

1951-1953: Hosted first TV show, "Carson's Cellar"

Was a writer for TV series, "The Red Skelton Show" (1951- 71)

First regular network TV show: "Earn Your Vacation," on CBS in 1954.

1955: Hosted and scripted first series, "The Johnny Carson Show" on CBS-TV

1957: TV acting debut, "Playhouse 90"

1957: Moved to Harrison, N.Y.

1957-1962: Emceed quiz show "Who Do You Trust?" On ABC-TV; joined for first time by longtime sidekick Ed McMahon in 1958

1960: Starred in a primetime TV pilot, "Johnny Come Lately" (which didn't make it to the regular season schedule)

'The Tonight Show' and Beyond

1962: Replaced Jack Paar (October 1); show renamed "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.” Hosted show for 30 years

1964: Feature acting debut, "Looking for Love"

1980: Threatened to quit the "Tonight Show" in 1979; the action won him a new contract, shortened the show from 90 minutes to one hour and increased in salary to $5 million a year

1991: Announced that final broadcast as host of the "Tonight Show" will be May 22, 1992

1992: Signed a multiyear contract with NBC to star in and develop programming for the network

Carson's highest-rated "Tonight Show": Tiny Tim marries Miss Vicki, Dec. 17, 1969

"The Tonight Show" moved from New York to Burbank in 1972.

Hosted 4,531 episodes of "The Tonight Show"

Hosted a total of approximately 22,000 guests

Guests who declined to appear on "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson": Woody Allen, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Robert Redford, Robert DeNiro, Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep, Paul Newman, Katherine Hepburn, Anne Bancroft, John Gielgud, Sonny Bono

Total number of original "Tonight Show" broadcasts: 6,583

Average nightly viewership: 12 million

Writer of "The Tonight Show" theme: Paul Anka

Oldest guest: 103-year-old Tillie Abrahamson


Won American Comedy Award for Lifetime Achievement-Male, 1992

Won Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1992

Won Kennedy Center Honors Lifetime Achievement Award, 1993

Inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame, 1987

Emmy awards received: 6 (Source: IMDB.com)

Won the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences' Governors' Award in 1980 (Source: IMDB.com)

Won George Foster Peabody Award in 1986 (Source: IMDB.com)

Other Facts

Had quadruple bypass surgery on March 19, 1999 (Source: Associated Press, 3/25/99)

Endowed his alma mater, the University of Nebraska, with substantial scholarship fund donations

What he'd like his epitaph to be: "I'll be right back." (Source: The San Francisco Chronicle, 5/21/92)

His Carson Productions created and sold pilots to NBC, including "TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes." (Source: Associated Press Newswires, 3/25/99)

First TV appearance: Played a mailman on a closed-circuit performance of "The Story of Undulant Fever," at the University of Nebraska.

Hobbies: Tennis, astronomy.

(Source: Celebrity Biographies)