US television talk show host. First appearing on the Tonight Show in 1958, and the regular host from 1962–1992, he turned it into one of National Broadcasting Company's biggest moneymakers. His talk show personality combined midwestern innocence with cosmopolitan wit. Carson did a monologue, then interviewed guests, usually showbiz celebrities.
He was born in Corning, Iowa, and raised in Nebraska. After serving in the US Navy (1943–46), he graduated from the University of Nebraska (1949) and went to work in radio in California (1950), where he worked for various radio and television shows. He moved to New York City in 1956. He hosted the television quiz show Who Do You Trust? 1958–63, making it ABC's top daytime program. By the time he retired in 1992, he was almost regarded as a US national institution.
In private life, Carson was almost the opposite of his spontaneous, charming onstage personality; he was married four times and was reputed to be rather distant, even cool in his dealings with most people. He formed his own production group in 1980 and became immensely wealthy from his own and other shows. He portrayed a series of outrageous American types in occasional skits. He was usually introduced by Ed McMahon announcing, ‘Heeere's Johnny!’.