Sometimes they're the last faces you see before you turn out the lights at night. Other times, they provide the comedy relief you need after a hard day at work. Today is the day to celebrate TV Talk Show hosts.

TV Talk Show Host Day is held on October 23, which is Johnny Carson's birthday. Carson, who hosted "The Tonight Show" from 1962 to 1992, was dubbed "The King of Late Night." No one could touch Carson in his day. His finale episode attracted 50 million viewers, one of the most watched episodes in television history. His last episode before a live studio audience featured Robin Williams and Bette Midler, who sang the classic "One for my Baby," to say goodbye to Johnny.

While generations of people grew up with Carson, there are still a few things you might not know about him.

His Iowa hometown is just an hour from John Wayne's

Johnny Carson was born in Corning, Iowa about an hour southwest of Wayne's hometown of Winterset, Iowa. Both small towns restored the childhood homes of the mega stars, turning them into museums and tourist destinations.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live

RELATED: In Hollywood, politics pushes its way into ratings game

Midwestern appeal

After moving from small towns in Iowa including Corning, Avoca , Clarinda and Red Oak, Carson's parents Ruth and Homer moved the family to Norfolk, Neb. Some say Carson's longevity in the world of talk shows can be credited to his "nice guy" persona, letting his guests have the spotlight while he quietly listened.

RELATED: Jimmy Kimmel feuds with Sean Hannity

Intensely private

While his Midwestern persona helped him on the air, some say he was much different off the air. An introvert and shy, he abhorred parties and rarely spoke to guests once the cameras stopped rolling. Betty Rollin once wrote that off camera he was "testy, defensive, preoccupied, withdrawn and wonderfully inept and uncomfortable with people."


Carson joined the U.S. Navy in 1943 and served on the USS Pennsylvania in the Pacific.

Frat guy

Carson was a member of Phi Gamma Delta at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln.

Johnny Carson was the undisputed "King of Late Night" from 1962 to 1992 when he hosted "The Tonight Show." Wikimedia/Special to The Forum
Johnny Carson was the undisputed "King of Late Night" from 1962 to 1992 when he hosted "The Tonight Show." Wikimedia/Special to The Forum

Life before 'Tonight'

Carson paid his dues before being named Jack Paar's successor on "The Tonight Show," working in radio and television from Omaha to Hollywood hosting variety shows.

In a Twist

In 1966, Johnny helped popularize the new board game Twister, when he played a round of the game with Eva Gabor on the show. Sales of "Twister" soon skyrocketed.

The one that got away

When asked who Johnny most wanted as a guest on "The Tonight Show," Carson always replied "Cary Grant." But Cary Grant never appeared on the show.

His last TV appearance was with the guy who didn't get his job

After Carson left "The Tonight Show" in 1992, he stayed out of the public eye. He made his last TV appearance on "The David Letterman Show," on CBS in 1994. Letterman had recently left his late night show on NBC after he was not named Carson's Tonight show successor. Carson had apparently not been consulted about plans to name Jay Leno as the new Tonight Show host. While Carson never spoke publicly about Leno or Letterman, he considered Letterman a friend, and his appearance on the rival network show 'spoke volumes.'

Johnny Carson died in the early morning hours of January 23, 2005 from respiratory failure from emphysema. A long-time smoker, he used to say of the cigarettes he'd smoke on the air, "these things are killing me." He was 79 years old.

Who is your favorite current late-night talk show host?

Thank you for voting!

  • Stephen Colbert


  • Jimmy Fallon


  • Jimmy Kimmel


Other holidays this week:

Monday, Oct. 21 - Pumpkin Cheesecake Day

Tuesday, Oct. 22 - Nut Day

Wednesday, Oct. 23 - Boston Cream Pie Day

Thursday, Oct. 24 - Bologna Day

Friday, Oct. 25 - Breadstick Day

Saturday, Oct. 26 - Tennessee Day

Sunday, Oct. 27 - American Beer Day