October 23 – TV Talk Show Host Day

Posted on October 23, 2014

One of the America's favorite TV talk shows has been The Tonight Show, which has been on as long as I've been alive. (Translation: a loooooong time!) It is the longest currently running regularly scheduled entertainment program in the U.S. and the third longest-running show of any sort on NBC. And it owes a lot of its success to Johnny Carson, who headed the show for THIRTY years!

(Of course, other amazing talents have also headed the show: Steve Allen, Jack Paar, Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien, and now Jimmy Fallon.)

Well, today is Johnny Carson's birthday. And in honor of this most excellent of TV talk show hosts, today has been declared TV Talk Show Host Day!

One of Carson's repeating characters was
a funny "psychic" named Carnak the
Johnny Carson was so many things, which is why he was such a good host: he was a comedian, writer, actor, musician, and an amateur magician. And he was a skeptic who hated religious fundamentalism and superstition. His background in magic helped him to be aware of the fact that some people who claim to have paranormal abilities are really just doing magic tricks. Magicians remind their audiences that they are creating illusions – but psychics do similar sorts of tricks AND THEN LIE ABOUT IT! Way not cool!

Carson actually helped show up some of these psychics as fakes on his show. 

For example, Carson and magician James Randi showed that Israeli so-called psychic Uri Geller was a fake; Geller was unable to do his famous spoon-bending trick because Carson supplied the spoons. 

Carson and Randi teamed up again to prove that the faith healer Peter Popoff was a charlatan. Carson also helped to support Randi's efforts to debunk junk pseudoscience and promote skepticism by donating to the James Randi Foundation and The Amazing Meetings. 

Carson also helped the field of science by sometimes inviting scientists onto the show. He invited astronomer Carl Sagan onto the show 26 times!

The fact that he helped encourage both skepticism and the popular understanding of science are my two favorite things about Johnny Carson! 

And now that he is gone, I appreciate the efforts of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert as well. Hooray for comedians as talk show hosts!

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