On Oct, 1, 1962, Groucho Marx introduced Johnny Carson as the new host of The Tonight Show, triggering thunderous applause. “Boy, you would have think it was Vice President Nixon,” Carson quipped. Wanna see this historic television event? Well, you can’t. It’s among hundreds of hours of early footage lost or taped over by NBC. However, there’s plenty more classic Carson moments available for appreciation on DVD. Heeere’s where to begin!
THE ULTIMATE JOHNNY CARSON COLLECTION, VOLS. 1-3
This essential set — No. 1 on Amazon’s comedy chart after Carson’s death — showcases such Tonight Show gems as the host’s confession to Dolly Parton, ”I would give about a year’s pay to peek under there.” Added treat: the 1982 prime-time special Johnny Goes Home, in which the intensely private Carson gives a tour of his boyhood town, Norfolk, Neb.
THE SIMPSONS: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON
Johnny could do it all — as he proves here, in cartoon form. In ”Krusty Gets Kancelled,” the late-night king trounces the celebrity klown in tennis, juggles a 1987 Buick Skylark, and plays the accordion while balancing two senior citizens on his head. For some reason, it doesn’t seem all that far-fetched.
In the Dec. 1, 1969, episode of the Lucille Ball comedy series, the two masters of physical comedy spill drinks all over themselves in a crowded restaurant booth. And in rare rehearsal footage, Johnny helps Lucy with a flubbed line. What a gentleman.
THE BEST OF ROWAN & MARTIN’S LAUGH-IN, VOLS. 1 & 2
”Doing the Laugh-In show is my second-favorite thing in the whole world,” Johnny says on Vol. 1. ”My first is having an unclean yak sit on my dinner.” Then on Vol. 2, he offers tauntingly, ”May the bird of paradise lay a ta-ta on your tutu.”
THE NEWTON BOYS
Johnny Carson and Skeet Ulrich — together at last! A 1980 Tonight Show interview with the real Joe Newton rolls during the film’s end credits. When the train robber takes out a hankie to wipe his nose, Carson first flinches, then jokes, ”I thought you were gonna put that on to stick me up.”