Johnny Carson by Henry Bushkin

Johnny Carson signed off from The Tonight Show in May 1992. I was six years old at the time, and obviously I had no interest in late night comedy. Fast forward a few years and I was doing whatever possible to stay up and watch Letterman and Leno crack jokes at 11:30. This was the world before DVR’s, so I would constantly flip back and forth between CBS and NBC to catch the host’s punchlines on O.J. Simpson, Bill Clinton, and other 90’s stars. As I matured and stayed up later, I would watch Conan O’Brien and I thoroughly enjoyed his off-the-wall version of the talk show.

I am not sure exactly why I was attracted to late night comedy at such a young age. When you are that young you rarely understand the fullness of the joke, you can barely keep your eyes open, but I enjoyed every moment watching these humorists night and night out.

Leno, Letterman, and O’Brien are three completely different comedians; however they all have one thing in common: utmost respect and adoration for the king of late night comedy, Johnny Carson.

Carson did not invent the game, nor did he even change the game. Johnny Carson perfected the game. For thirty years, “The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson” was a staple in American society. If you did not watch it, you were out of the loop.

However, Carson the host and Carson the man were to be two completely different people. Henry Bushkin was officially Johnny’s lawyer and unofficially his confidant and fixer. In this very entertaining book, Bushkin gives us a peek into the personal world of Carson. He was a loyal man with some strong vices

Bushkin has several opportunities to exploit his former relationship with Carson, to drag the late night host through the mud and construct a formidable shadow of Carson. Had Bushkin done this, he probably could have moved more books, however this book is a simple, straightforward account of Bushkin’s experiences. There is little condemnation of Johnny in the book as well as very little romanticizing.

I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed this brief glimpse behind the curtain.