The BEST Episodes of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson

Every episode ever - ranked by fan votes!

Last Updated: Aug 14, 2020

Network: NBC

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.

Richard Pryor, Rain Pryor, Jake Johannsen

#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.

star 10.00
1 votes
Directors: Bobby Quinn
Writers:
Joan Embery, Art Donovan, Ron Silver

#2 - Joan Embery, Art Donovan, Ron Silver

Season 28 - Episode 52 - Aired Jan 18, 1990

Actor Ron Silver; Art Donovan; animal expert Joan Embery.

star 10.00
1 votes
Directors: Bobby Quinn
Writers:
Robin Williams, Jonathan Winters, Park Overall

#3 - Robin Williams, Jonathan Winters, Park Overall

Season 29 - Episode 176 - Aired Sep 19, 1991

Actor Robin Williams; comic Jonathan Winters; actress Park Overall.

star 10.00
2 votes
Jay Leno (guest host), Lily Tomlin, Neil Patrick Harris

#4 - Jay Leno (guest host), Lily Tomlin, Neil Patrick Harris

Season 30 - Episode 12 - Aired Oct 18, 1991

star 10.00
1 votes
Directors: Ellen Brown
Writers:
Michael Keaton, Martin Short, Teri Garr

#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)

star 10.00
1 votes
Directors: Bobby Quinn
Writers:
Lily Tomlin, Walter Slezak, Jerry Van Dyke, Sam Blotner

#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.

star 10.00
1 votes
Michael J. Fox, Larry Miller, Harry Lorayne

#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.

star 10.00
1 votes
Mabel Hines Buck, Paul Reiser, Jason Bateman

#8 - Mabel Hines Buck, Paul Reiser, Jason Bateman

Season 27 - Episode 44 - Aired Jan 6, 1989

star 10.00
1 votes
Burt Reynolds, Dick Shawn

#9 - Burt Reynolds, Dick Shawn

Season 25 - Episode 10 - Aired Nov 5, 1986

Actor Burt Reynolds; comedian Dick Shawn.

star 10.00
2 votes
Jack Benny, Rich Little, Dylan Jenson, Dick Barlow and Roger Pida

#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.

star 10.00
1 votes
Ricardo Montalban, Laura Bergt, Uri Geller

#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.

star 10.00
1 votes
Robin Williams

#12 - Robin Williams

Season 20 - Episode 145 - Aired Jul 22, 1982

Actor-comic Robin Williams.

star 10.00
1 votes
Don Johnson, David Brenner, Dale Robertson

#13 - Don Johnson, David Brenner, Dale Robertson

Season 25 - Episode 167 - Aired Sep 25, 1987

Comic David Brenner; actor Don Johnson; actor Dale Robertson.

star 8.00
1 votes
Shelley Winters, David Susskind

#14 - Shelley Winters, David Susskind

Season 7 - Episode 239 - Aired Dec 2, 1969

star 8.00
31 votes
Danny DeVito, Joan Embery, John Searing

#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.

star 8.00
1 votes
Tony Bennett, Mel Brooks, Joan Crawford, Rudy Vallee

#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.

star 7.58
12 votes
George Plimpton, Joan Rivers, Gabriel Kaplan, Adrienne Barbeau

#17 - George Plimpton, Joan Rivers, Gabriel Kaplan, Adrienne Barbeau

Season 12 - Episode 45 - Aired Dec 20, 1973

star 7.00
1 votes
Directors: Bobby Quinn
Writers:
Joan Embery, Dennis Hopper, Rich Hall

#18 - Joan Embery, Dennis Hopper, Rich Hall

Season 29 - Episode 160 - Aired Aug 15, 1991

Beezer the Lonely Parakeet

star 7.00
1 votes
Directors: Bobby Quinn
Writers:
Tallulah Bankhead, Artie Shaw, Shelley Berman

#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.

star 7.00
1 votes
Barbra Streisand, Dennis Weaver, Jean Carroll, Sander Vanocur

#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.

star 7.00
2 votes
Jack Benny, Mitch Miller, Sebastian Cabot, Commander Edward Whitehead

#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.

star 7.00
2 votes
Tim Conway, Kevin Rooney, Jester Hairston, Donald O. Cram

#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.

star 7.00
1 votes
Buddy Hackett, Cindy Williams, Sander Vanocur

#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".

star 7.00
1 votes
Dyan Cannon, Rodney Dangerfield, Arnaud de Borchgrave, Jim Fowler

#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.

star 7.00
1 votes
Albert Brooks, Susan Sarandon

#25 - Albert Brooks, Susan Sarandon

Season 19 - Episode 87 - Aired Apr 9, 1981

With Actor Albert Brooks; actress Susan Sarandon.

star 7.00
1 votes