The BEST Episodes of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Every episode ever - ranked by fan votes!
Last Updated: Aug 14, 2020
In 1962, Johnny Carson became the host of The Tonight Show. When Johnny started, the show was originating from New York and was taped on the same evening that it aired. Johnny was on all five nights and began his monologue when the show began at 11:15 pm. On his first show, Carson was introduced by Groucho Marx; Johnny's first words, reacting to applause as he walked onstage for the first time: "Boy, you would think it was Vice President Nixon." Johnny's final telecast on May 22 1992 was a national event. A quiet reminiscence about the show's golden moments over the past 30 years.
#1 - Richard Pryor, Rain Pryor, Jake Johannsen
Season 27 - Episode 108 - Aired May 11, 1989
Actor/comedian Richard Pryor; actress Rain Pryor. Standup comic Jake Johannsen.
#2 - Joan Embery, Art Donovan, Ron Silver
Season 28 - Episode 52 - Aired Jan 18, 1990
Actor Ron Silver; Art Donovan; animal expert Joan Embery.
#3 - Robin Williams, Jonathan Winters, Park Overall
Season 29 - Episode 176 - Aired Sep 19, 1991
Actor Robin Williams; comic Jonathan Winters; actress Park Overall.
#4 - Jay Leno (guest host), Lily Tomlin, Neil Patrick Harris
Season 30 - Episode 12 - Aired Oct 18, 1991
#5 - Michael Keaton, Martin Short, Teri Garr
Season 30 - Episode 115 - Aired May 14, 1992
Actor Michael Keaton; actor Martin Short; actress Teri Garr. Copper Clappers/Jack Webb Sketch (from 1968)
#6 - Lily Tomlin, Walter Slezak, Jerry Van Dyke, Sam Blotner
Season 13 - Episode 99 - Aired Feb 20, 1975
The famous sage, seer, soothsayer, all omniscient, all knowing, all seeing Carnac the Magnificent makes an appearance; Comedienne/actress Lily Tomlin chats about her childhood; Austrian-born character actor Walter Slezak tells some great stories; Comedian/actor Jerry Van Dyke does standup and chats with Johnny; and the Tonight Show's correspondent from Costa Rica, Sam Blotner is back.
#7 - Michael J. Fox, Larry Miller, Harry Lorayne
Season 27 - Episode 11 - Aired Nov 3, 1988
Actor Michael J. Fox; Larry Miller; magician Harry Lorayne.
#8 - Mabel Hines Buck, Paul Reiser, Jason Bateman
Season 27 - Episode 44 - Aired Jan 6, 1989
#9 - Burt Reynolds, Dick Shawn
Season 25 - Episode 10 - Aired Nov 5, 1986
Actor Burt Reynolds; comedian Dick Shawn.
#10 - Jack Benny, Rich Little, Dylan Jenson, Dick Barlow and Roger Pida
Season 11 - Episode 77 - Aired Jan 17, 1973
Los Angeles detectives Dick Barlow and Roger Pida chat with Johnny about going undercover in drag; Jack Benny plugs the upcoming "Jack Benny's First Farewell Special" and shows an out-take; Child prodigy Dylan Jenson plays the violin and impressionist Rich Little imitates Benny and Carson.
#11 - Ricardo Montalban, Laura Bergt, Uri Geller
Season 11 - Episode 216 - Aired Aug 1, 1973
Desk- "Commercially Oriented Greeting Cards" Laura Bergt introduces World Eskimo-Indian Olympics champions Lester Bodfish, Reggie Joule, Roger Kunayak and Fred Titus who demonstrate their talents. Actor Ricardo Montalban discusses bullfighting. Illusionist Uri Geller demonstrates psychokinesis.
#12 - Robin Williams
Season 20 - Episode 145 - Aired Jul 22, 1982
Actor-comic Robin Williams.
#13 - Don Johnson, David Brenner, Dale Robertson
Season 25 - Episode 167 - Aired Sep 25, 1987
Comic David Brenner; actor Don Johnson; actor Dale Robertson.
#14 - Shelley Winters, David Susskind
Season 7 - Episode 239 - Aired Dec 2, 1969
#15 - Danny DeVito, Joan Embery, John Searing
Season 24 - Episode 140 - Aired Jun 26, 1986
Danny DeVito; animal advocate Joan Embery; and fill-in announcer John Searing.
#16 - Tony Bennett, Mel Brooks, Joan Crawford, Rudy Vallee
Season 1 - Episode 1 - Aired Oct 1, 1962
Guests for tonight: Joan Crawford, Mel Brooks, Tony Bennett and Rudy Vallee. Johnny is introduced by Groucho Marx.
#17 - George Plimpton, Joan Rivers, Gabriel Kaplan, Adrienne Barbeau
Season 12 - Episode 45 - Aired Dec 20, 1973
#18 - Joan Embery, Dennis Hopper, Rich Hall
Season 29 - Episode 160 - Aired Aug 15, 1991
Beezer the Lonely Parakeet
#19 - Tallulah Bankhead, Artie Shaw, Shelley Berman
Season 1 - Episode 2 - Aired Oct 2, 1962
Guests for tonight: Tallullah Bankhead, Artie Shaw and Shelly Berman.
#20 - Barbra Streisand, Dennis Weaver, Jean Carroll, Sander Vanocur
Season 1 - Episode 4 - Aired Oct 4, 1962
Guests for tonight: Dennis Weaver, Jean Carroll, Barbara Streisand, Sander Vanocur and the Mickey Roberts Trio.
#21 - Jack Benny, Mitch Miller, Sebastian Cabot, Commander Edward Whitehead
Season 1 - Episode 6 - Aired Oct 8, 1962
Guests for tonight: Mitch Miller, Sebastian Cabot and Commander Edward Whitehead.
#22 - Tim Conway, Kevin Rooney, Jester Hairston, Donald O. Cram
Season 26 - Episode 6 - Aired Oct 15, 1987
Comic Tim Conway; Kevin Rooney; Jester Hairston; Donald O. Cram.
#23 - Buddy Hackett, Cindy Williams, Sander Vanocur
Season 15 - Episode 81 - Aired Feb 1, 1977
Actor Buddy Hackett; actor Cindy Williams; Journalist Sander Vanocur talks about the state of television and Johnny makes an interesting observation about the right time to end a television show being when you are "still on top".
#24 - Dyan Cannon, Rodney Dangerfield, Arnaud de Borchgrave, Jim Fowler
Season 18 - Episode 172 - Aired Jul 23, 1980
With Actress Dyan Cannon; comedian Rodney Dangerfield; journalist Arnaud de Borchgrave; zoologist Jim Fowler.
#25 - Albert Brooks, Susan Sarandon
Season 19 - Episode 87 - Aired Apr 9, 1981
With Actor Albert Brooks; actress Susan Sarandon.