American Masters (1985– )
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Johnny Carson: King of Late Night 

Chronological look at the life and career of Johnny Carson (1925-2005), with commentary from an ex-wife and more than 30 fellow comedians, friends, employees, and biographers. The biography... See full summary »


Mark A. Catalena (as Mark Catalena), Peter Jones


Peter Jones




Episode credited cast:
Kevin Spacey ... Narrator (voice)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Steve Allen ... Himself (archive footage)
Jack Bailey Jack Bailey ... Himself (archive footage)
Roseanne Barr ... Herself (archive footage)
Michael Barrie Michael Barrie ... Himself - Tonight Show Writer (as Mike Barrie)
Ginny Beauregard Ginny Beauregard ... Herself - Personal Assistant
Richard Benjamin ... Himself
Jack Benny ... Himself (archive footage)
Paul Block Paul Block ... Himself - Talent Coordinator
Mel Brooks ... Himself
William F. Buckley ... Himself (archive footage)
Vicki Budinger Vicki Budinger ... Herself (archive footage) (as Miss Vicki)
Truman Capote ... Himself (archive footage)
Drew Carey ... Himself
Catharine Carson Catharine Carson ... Herself (archive footage) (as Katherine Carson)


Chronological look at the life and career of Johnny Carson (1925-2005), with commentary from an ex-wife and more than 30 fellow comedians, friends, employees, and biographers. The biography defines why Carson was an enduring star (his cool, his timing, his genuine laugh, his breadth of knowledge) and pursues his motivations and inner self (a loner with a drinking problem, a decent Midwesterner whose mother withheld approval, a quiet person who loved to entertain). The key to understanding him, argues the biography, is his love of magic. Written by <>

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Release Date:

14 May 2012 (USA) See more »

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Did You Know?


Michael Barrie (as Mike Barrie) was credited on screen in two different ways, first as "Writer, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson," and second as "Writer, Academy Awards." See more »


Don Rickles: He had the kind of personality that when the light went on, he could do it all. When the light went off, a lot of times he wanted to put the covers over his head and go to bed.
See more »


Features Red Skelton Revue (1954) See more »


One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)
Written by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer
Performed by Bette Midler
See more »

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User Reviews

Johnny Carson gets quite a tribute in this "American Masters" episode
3 July 2012 | by tavmSee all my reviews

After a couple of months of sitting on my DVR, I finally watched "American Masters: Johnny Carson: King of Late Night. It seems to cover everything of his life and career choice-his discovery of magic tricks at 13 or 14, his first TV appearance on a station in Omaha, Nebraska, his initial Los Angeles local TV exposure, his big break on national TV as substitute on Red Skelton's show before his own same-named show on CBS, and then his pinnacle-30 years of "The Tonight Show". We also get glimpses of his four wives and his affairs in between. And then there's the way he wanted his private life really private. Along the way, there's plenty of interviews of people who he helped to either mentor or just expose to a mass audience-David Letterman, Jay Leno, Garry Shandling, Jerry Seinfeld, Joan Rivers. The last one is discussed further because of her abrupt departure as "The Tonight Show"s permanent guest host as well as treasured guest after Johnny discovered her Fox deal in 1986 that Ms. Rivers never told him about beforehand. Arsenio Hall also chimes in about Johnny and how his show managed to be real competition for Carson when he simply went with his own thing and went after the late night king's audience's kids. Many of the show's highlights are here: that tomahawk incident with Ed Ames with Johnny saying "I didn't know you were Jewish!", a caged tiger from Joan Embry scaring him to go to Ed McMahon's shoulders, etc. One surprising scene for me, however, was seeing Johnny singing "Here's That Rainy Day" from an early show so lovingly while playing guitar. It was a pleasantly unexpected scene to watch. I could probably say more, but I'll just now say if you were or still are a fan of his, I highly recommend this "Johnny Carson: King of Late Night" ep of "American Masters." Personal note: Mom often told me that when I first talked, it was during one of Johnny's shows when Ed said "Heeeere's Johnny!" and my first words were the toddler version of it.

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