The loss of “Late Night King” Johnny Carson has affected many people in different ways. Celebrity tributes have poured into media outlets, throughout the last 24 hours, many telling of their personal and professional experiences with him, and what his loss meant to them. But let me tell you what it means to one of his many loyal “nobody you’d know” fans.
For millions of second shifters that were having their first cold one while kicking their feet up in their living rooms after work, he was someone that could make a tired worker forget about their tough evening at the salt mines. For millions of insomniacs, he was someone that would help ease the terrible anxieties that kept them awake through humor and entertainment. And for millions that had an extra long hard day, he was that someone that could put a smile on someone’s face, so they could have something to chat about at the water cooler the next day.
In a talk show format that was not designed specifically for him, he made it his own and it stayed his, for three decades. Some talented people tried to just "tap into" his market share, with the same or similar format (in the same time slot), but the result was always the same.
He was an artist, businessman, and had a true gift for gauging outstanding but unknown talents and gave scores and scores great opportunities to market their talents. One talent in particular, has become his successor. I recall vividly that night when Johnny brought him out and remember how pleased he looked that Jay had come out and wowed that audience remarkably.
Today, the late night talk show market share once owned and operated by Mr. Carson, is now split fairly evenly between Leno and Letterman. It is truly amazing to realize that the market that was once dominated by Johnny now can have two same type format shows, in the same time slot, and have both successful at it. But that’s just how big he was. He didn’t realize just how much of an impact he was making, because his interests and primary focus was putting out the very best product he could.
In 1992, Johnny Carson closed the door on his career while still on top. He did it the way he wanted to, he did it on his own terms. Since then, he has made few public appearances and has valued his privacy greatly. That door was closed for his fans, almost thirteen years ago. On Sunday, it closed for those closest to him.
He will be sorely missed by all who knew and watched him.