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Johnny Carson Exhibit Opens at National Comedy Center

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The National Comedy Center and special guests celebrated the opening of an exhibit on Johnny Carson this weekend.

Carson Entertainment Group President and nephew of Johnny Carson, Jeff Sotzing, said the new exhibit, Johnny Carson – The Immersive Experience, is to show the impact the show had, “And the fact that Johnny has really, really, was able to make that show what it is. He’s the guy who really started it, Steve Allen and Johnny. But he perfected it, I think. He made it his own show. And the monologue is a humorous chronology of current events, talking about gas prices going up to 50-cents. Things like that. It’s just great!”

Johnny Carson is an American comedian who, as host of The Tonight Show (1962–92), established the standard format for television chat shows—including the guest couch and the studio band—and came to be considered the king of late-night television.

As the host of that nightly program for nearly three decades, Carson had an unprecedented influence on a generation of television viewers, and his decision in 1972 to move his show from New York to California was instrumental in shifting the power of the TV industry to Los Angeles. He created such memorable characters as Aunt Blabby and Carnac the Magnificent, as well as a large number of classic skits, and became one of the most beloved performers in the country. Carson won four Emmy Awards, was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (1987), and was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1992) and a Kennedy Center Honor (1993). On May 22, 1992, Carson’s final appearance as the host of The Tonight Show attracted an estimated 50 million viewers, the largest audience in the program’s history. Comedian Jay Leno replaced Carson as the late-night staple’s host.

Sotzing started working on the Tonight Show in 1978 where he worked on cataloging and inventorying all the material on the show that existed.

He said he loves that the National Comedy Center is able to preserve Carson’s work and that it’s an exhibit that can change, “They show his monologue, they show his interaction with the guests, and it’s a very, very difficult job to do. And he was so good at it that he managed to make it look super easy to do and it’s not. If you talk to anyone who has done the show, they’ll tell you there’s a lot of balls in the air at one time, and it’s live. That’s the other thing.”

Johnny Carson – The Immersive Experience is now open to the public to view at the National Comedy Center.

For more information, visit comedycenter.org