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Talk Radio Research Project
Heavy Hundred 2001
Week in Review
of Talk Radio 2002 Edition
at the Heritage Foundation
You know someone is an icon when, years after he’s left his program,
people say they still miss him and that the show just isn’t the
same. That’s how many Americans feel who watched “The Tonight
Show” during the 30 years Johnny Carson was the host. As mentioned
in the accompanying overview, if this list were compiled by a publication
with more of a television entertainment industry perspective, Johnny Carson
would be number one, not two, on this list.
His experience prior to succeeding Jack Parr in 1962 as host of “The
Tonight Show” consisted mainly of writing comedy and hosting game
shows. He had been extremely popular as the young host of the now-legendary
show, “Who Do You Trust?” which displayed his skills as an
emcee who could chat with contestants spontaneously. It didn’t take
long, however, after assuming the helm of “The Tonight Show,”
for Carson to become America’s favorite television talk host and
the undisputed king of late night television. During his lengthy reign,
other networks and syndicators served up a series of competitors, some
(Dick Cavett, Regis Philbin) even making this prestigious list - but none
ever coming close to beating Johnny Carson in the ratings.
He exhibited a superb wit which meshed with his ability to make guests
feel at ease that allowed his conversations to flow naturally. He knew
how to use the camera, too. His trademark look at the viewers with that
twinkle in his eye and a slight smirk on his face at just the right time
often said more than any number of words could.
A extremely private individual, Carson has purposely stayed out of the
public spotlight since his retirement - only adding mystique and credibility
to his ever-growing status as a show business legend.