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How I Helped Make the Tonight Show What it is Today

NBC Television, Getty Images)

The 59th Anniversary of the Tonight Show on NBC occurred last week. The show premiered in 1954 with comedian Steve Allen as the host.  He was followed by a series of hosts including Ernie Kovacs, Jack Paar, Johnny Carson and currently, Jay Leno.

Carson, who began as host on this date in 1962, held the position for 30 years from 1962 to 1992.  Believe it or not, I actually have played a very minor role in the show’s success under current host Jay Leno.

Several years ago I was in Peoria and purchased a copy of the Sunday Peoria Journal Star newspaper. In one of  the local back pages I came across a small story about Peoria policemen arresting a guy for having crack cocaine in his underwear. The heading on the story said, “Police Find Crack in Man’s Underpants”.

I found myself laughing out loud when I read it and thought I should send this to the Tonight Show which I did.  Two weeks later, Jay Leno used it in his newspaper headline segment on the show.  It got the biggest laugh of any of the other headlines he used that night.

I am still waiting for my thank you letter from NBC for submitting it.  Since it has been over ten years ago, I guess I shouldn’t hang by my mailbox waiting for it.

The Tonight Show has changed over the years and for my money, NBC or any other network will never find anyone as good as Johnny Carson was.

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