Johnny Carson’s announcer and sidekick for 30 plus years, Ed McMahon, died peacefully at UCLA Medical Center on June 23, 2009 at the age of 86. From 1962 to 1992, the genial McMahon was Carson’s foil, friend and familiar voice of NBC’s Tonight Show. His robust belly laugh was his trademark, along with his “Hi-Yo!” exclamation to Johnny and the Tonight Show Band and his enthusiastic “Here’s Johnny!” introduction of Carson every night at 11:30. “That laugh was real,” Dick Cavett said Monday, even as he remembered that guest Groucho Marx once derisively referred to McMahon as “Laughing Boy.”
Through 34 years, from the game show “Who Do You Trust?” and “Tonight,” McMahon’s larger than life personality and personal warmth sparked and nurtured a life-long chemistry with the reclusive Johnny Carson. He was warm where Carson was cool, loud when Johnny needed a reaction shot. But he was more than just the Tonight Show’s announcer and participant in the Mighty Carson Art Players skits. The Michigan native was a WWII marine fighter pilot. and veteran of the Korean war. He was a television producer in Philadelphia before he met Johnny Carson. McMahon became the host of Star Search, and TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes along with Dick Clark and did commercials for American Family Publishers, Budweiser and many others including most recently an ad for “Cash 4 Gold,” that aired during this year’s Super Bowl. He appeared in movies and regularly co-hosted Jerry Lewis’ Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy Telethon. He even found work in a WB sitcom in 1997 on the “Tom Show,” with Tom Arnold. A year later he released his autobiography, “For Laughing Out Loud: My Life and Good Times”.
Despite recent financial and health problems, McMahon never lost his reputation for his humanity, humility and consummate professionalism. His publicist Howard Bragman said Tuesday, “I want him to be remembered for his life and not his death.” Dick Cavett called his death, “a sad ending to a colorful life.” Al Rokker said that he was “so beloved by so many people.”
Ed McMahon will be remembered as a part of television history, the gentle giant of the Carson era of the Tonight Show, Johnny’s co-conspirator in late night frivolity. He was more than a tv personality, he was like a member of the family. If Johnny was the mischievous older brother, Ed McMahon was our generous, jovial uncle whose laughter and goodwill filled the house.
“Hi-Yo!” Uncle Eddie. Thanks for the laughs and the company. We will miss you. Rest in peace.
Sources: HLN: Showbiz Tonight
NBC: Today Show