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October 5, 2015

Johnny Carson Goes Digital

by Gary Susman, posted Aug 11th 2010 2:40PM
Johnny Carson on 'The Tonight Show'Better late than never.

Johnny Carson's 30-year run as host of 'The Tonight Show' ended with his retirement in 1992, and he passed away in 2005, but he's finally back -- in digital form.

Some 3,500 hours of archival 'Tonight' clips, which were buried for decades in a Kansas salt mine (no, really!), have been digitized and uploaded into a searchable online archive, the New York Times reports.

The archive, overseen by former 'Tonight' producer (and Carson nephew) Jeff Sotzing, will live at JohnnyCarson.com. It will feature all the extant footage of Carson's landmark 1962-92 tenure, which continues to set the standards for late-night comedy to this day. Much of the first 10 years of the show has been lost, but in the early '70s, Carson renegotiated his contract with NBC and won the rights to his reruns, tapes of which were stored 650 feet underground in a salt mine in Hutchinson, Kansas. It took a year and the labor of 2,000 workers to digitize the tapes, which include the handful of surviving shows from the early years and every Carson show from 1973 to 1992.

At first, the archive will be accessible only to media outlets, and only for the purpose of finding and paying for licensed clips. Eventually, however, the database will be searchable by the general public, Sotzing told the Times.

Currently, anyone can visit the site and purchase DVD compilations there for home viewing. The site also is streaming about two dozen classic clips, including the then-unknown Jerry Seinfeld's first stand-up appearance on the show in 1981, a restaurant sketch with Carson and Betty White, an early appearance from 1977 of future 'Tonight' host Jay Leno, a funny bit from 1983 involving Albert Brooks and a Speak & Spell, and yes, the notorious Ed Ames tomahawk toss, which earned one of the longest sustained bouts of audience laughter in TV history.

•Follow Gary Susman on Twitter @garysusman.

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Oh, and those tours took place at "noon, today" !!!!

August 12 2010 at 3:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I didn't know Funk & Wagnalls had such a deep porch!!!! LOL

August 12 2010 at 3:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

yep, it's true. there are alot of items preserved in the old salt mines near Hutchinson Kansas. It was found to be the perfect place to save the items, including many old movies. It keeps them dry and rodent free and at the right temps. Now they are giving tours of these mines and it's a great look back at history.

August 12 2010 at 2:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think NBC should re-broadcast this collection as it's probably better than 90% of their current programming, probably would get stellar ratings too.

August 12 2010 at 2:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hey Mike, reread Sandee's comment:
"Carson invented the late night TV show host."

She didn't say that he invented the show, she said that he set a high standard for late night TV hosting.

August 12 2010 at 2:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I miss Johnny.

August 12 2010 at 1:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Red Sam Rackham

Dagmar was a late nite regular who was merely famous for being famous, the Paris Hilton of the 50s!

August 12 2010 at 1:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mary Heibeck

Does anyone know if two guests on Carson are on the DVD, i.e.Buddy Hackett and Peter O'Toole? Buddy told a story that went on and on about a man who had to call a friend about his mother dying [I think it was his mother] and the guy went the way of east Pittsburgh to tell it. When Buddy was done, I think I remember Johnny almost falling out of his chair.
The one with Peter was about his performing in a Shakespearean play and an actress fell dead and Peter said to the audience, 'Don't worry about her, she'll be up in a minute'. And he walked off the stage. Again, Johnny was in stitches. I loved the shows where the guests would make Johnny laugh so hard, he had tears running down his face. There are so many people who could just make us laugh and laugh and ...... Not so much today. : - (

August 12 2010 at 1:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Red Sam Rackham

Joan Rivers hates Carson because of the way he treated her after she got her own talk show on FOX.

August 12 2010 at 1:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Red Sam Rackham

What also made Carson great were the guests he had on his show including Rich Little, Albert Brooks, Don Rickles, Joan Rivers and especially Jack Burns & Avery Schreiber doing their taxi-cab sketches. It was the kind of late nite entertainment we no longer see. Carson's own Mighty Carson Art Player sketches including Art Fern, Carnac and Floyd R. Turbo, American among his hilarious characters were also great. Since Carson all late nite talk is boring. Letterman is the best of the current crop though. He comes closest to the genius of Carson. The rest are totally dull.

August 12 2010 at 1:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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