John William Carson was born on 23 October 1925, in Coming, Iowa USA, of part Irish descent. He was probably the leading TV talk show host in the US for 30 years, until retiring in 1992. Carson passed away in 2005 in California.
Many people are interested in Johnny Carson’s net worth – how rich was he? Johnny Carson’s net worth has been estimated at $300 million.
Johnny Carson Net Worth $200 Million
Like many kids, Johnny Carson was fascinated by magicians, so bought a kit and gave his first show at 14, earning $3. Other performances followed at local parties, until he joined the US Navy in 1943, training as a communications officer but still practicing tricks, even on the Secretary of the Navy.Of course this was the start of his net worth, small as it was.
After Navy service, Johnny graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1949 with a BA degree in speech and drama, while still performing part-time, as he had decided to try and work in radio. He actually secured his first job at the WOW station in Omaha, where he was soon hosting a morning TV show called “The Squirrel’s Nest”, part of which was Johnny satirically performing, with local celebrities as his target. His net worth was beginning to grow.
Carson was soon referred to the Los Angeles TV station KNXT – owned by CBS – which was a big step-up in his career, as he was subsequently invited to write for and be a guest on several shows, including by Red Skelton and Jack Benny, as well as hosting his own self-titled but still modest show in 1955. Never one to stay still for long at that point, Johnny then moved to New York, and hosted “Who Do You Trust” for five years. All these projects added steadily to Johnny’s net worth.
Although not realising it at the time, Johnny Carson’s move to this daytime TV show was most significant, as it allowed him freedom to ad lib and display his real talent for humour and satire, but in a friendly way which did not unnecessarily embarrass guests. After five years, NBC convinced Johnny to become host of the popular ‘Tonight’ show and, as the saying goes, he never looked back. Despite Johnny being fearful of the length of the show, and therefore keeping audiences interested, the show and himself were a success, so that the name was changed to “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” after a year. Of course, this was to become the biggest source of his net worth for the next 30 years.
In the 1960s, Johnny’s show gained enormous popularity, and was broadcast live. During the peak of his success in the show during the 70s and 80s, Johnny always remained a casual person, and relaxed conversational interacting with guests of the show was the main reason, and why the show maintained its popularity. This was certainly Johnny’s own style, but was also why he had been selected, as previous hosts had adopted a similar style, and why his popularity remained stable until he retired.
Of course Johnny Carson’s success and popularity did not go unrewarded, and over 30 years he won six Emmy Awards, the Governor’s Award in 1980, and the Peabody Award in 1985. He was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1987, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992, and finally a Kennedy Center Honor in 1993.
In his private life, Johnny Carson was actually a shy and quiet person, completely avoiding the limelight and refusing to discuss his personal life, beliefs or preferences. He was married four times, firstly to Jody Wolcott(1948-63), with whom he had his only three children, sons. In 1963 the couple divorced and later that year John Carson married Joanne Copeland, the marriage lasting nine years. Johnny was then married to model Joanna Holland(1972-83), and finally to Alexis Maas from 1987 until his death from respiratory failure in 2005. After Carson’s death, a huge amount of his net worth, i.e. $200 million went to the charity organization “The Johnny Carson Foundation”.
Like fellow talk show host David Letterman, Carson was known to be a very private and intensely shy person.
His brother Dick Carson was the one time producer/director of The Merv Griffin Show (1962) in the 1970s. Dick Carson was also director of over 3200 episodes of the network and syndicated versions of "Wheel of Fortune".
Interviewed in "The Great Comedians Talk About Comedy" by Larry Wilde. 
Inducted into the Nebraska Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame in 1987.
Mill Creek Entertainment has issued a four-DVD boxed set called "Johnny Carson: Late Night Legend", consisting of more than 23 hours of shows culled from his late-night talk show, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962).
According to the PBS series American Masters (1985), Carson was seen by more people on more occasions than anyone else in American history.
While in the US Navy during World War II (1943-1945), he was an undefeated amateur boxer, posting a record of 10 wins. Most of his boxing matches were held on the USS Pennylvania, the ship on which he served.
Taught himself how to speak Swahili before going on trips to Africa during his retirement.
While serving in the Navy during WWII, Carson filled in for an absent Rita Hayworth during a USO performance by Orson Welles's 'Mercury Theater Wonder Show' in which he had to be sawed in half by Welles.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume 7, 2003-2005, pages 65-68. Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale, 2007.
Bob Hope, commenting on Carson's retirement, said it was like "a head falling off Mt. Rushmore. He's had a profound impact on millions of lives. He changed people's sleeping habits, sex habits and their midnight eating habits."
"'I'll be right back.'" Carson, when asked what he'd like for an epitaph at a press conference after he'd accepted Harvard University's Hasty Pudding Club Man of the Year Award, 1977.
In 1949 received a Bachelor of Arts degree in radio and speech (with a minor in physics) from The University of Nebraska.
Had once been considered for the part of "Rob Petrie" on what subsequently became The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961).
Won Kennedy Center Honors in 1993.
In addition to his walk-on appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman (1993) stage, he also appeared on another episode in a filmed segment where Letterman has car problems while visiting Hollywood and Carson drives past, shaking his head in disapproval.
In January 2005, one-time Late Show with David Letterman (1993) producer Peter Lassally revealed that Carson occasionally contributed material for Letterman's monologues. What he missed most in retirement was performing his own "Tonight Show" monologues, according to Lassally.
When Carson announced his impending retirement, there was fierce competition between David Letterman and Jay Leno to be Carson's "Tonight Show" successor. Leno eventually won the coveted spot, and an angry Letterman moved over to rival network CBS to host a competing show. Many, including Leno, took Carson's walk-on appearance on Late Show with David Letterman (1993) as a signal from Carson that he preferred Letterman to Leno. (Carson has never appeared on Leno's show to congratulate his "Tonight Show" successor).
His very first guest on The Tonight Show was Groucho Marx, who introduced Carson. Reacting to the ensuing applause, Carson said, "Boy, you would think it was Vice President [Lyndon Johnson]". Johnny's last guest was Bette Midler, who sang him out.
After a protracted divorce from his second wife, Joanne Carson, she got nearly half a million dollars in cash and art and $75,000 a year in alimony for life.
On March 8, 1983, Joanna Holland filed for divorce. Under California's community property laws, she was entitled to 50% of all the assets accumulated during the marriage, even though Carson earned virtually all of the couple's income. During this period, he joked on The Tonight Show: "My producer (Frederick De Cordova) really gave me something I needed for Christmas. He gave me a gift certificate to the Law Offices of Jacoby and Meyers". The divorce was settled in 1985 with a whopping 80-page settlement, Holland receiving $20 million in cash and property.
Son Richard Wolcott Carson was killed on June 21, 1991 after his car plunged down a steep embankment along a coastal road. The accident apparently occurred while he was taking pictures along a paved service road off Highway 1 near Cayucos, north of San Luis Obispo (CA). Johnny Carson had two other sons: Christopher, named after his paternal grandfather, and Cory Carson.
The story goes he met his last wife, Alexis Mass, when he saw her strolling along the beach near his Malibu home holding an empty wine glass. He left his house and offered to fill the glass up for her.
Served on the USS Pennsylvania.
In April 1967 he walked off The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962) convinced that NBC had violated his contract by showing reruns during an AFTRA strike. He refused to go back to work when the strike ended and won a new contract that reportedly guaranteed him an income in excess of $4 million for the following three years.
First wife, Joan "Jody" Morrill Wolcott, was his college sweetheart. They divorced and later, in 1990, she lost a suit trying to increase the alimony that she was receiving.
Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992.
At the tenth anniversary party for The Tonight Show, he announced that he and former model Joanna Holland had married that afternoon, shocking friends and associates. [September 30, 1972].
Had a lifelong interest in magic, and sent away for a mail-order magic kit when he was 12. Soon he started performing for bridge clubs and church socials as a 14-year-old magician/comic, under the name "The Great Carsoni." Plied his magic tricks in early performing days of the 1950s in places like the Seven Seas lounge in Omaha, Nebraska.
When he retired in 1992, he held the record for hosting the same network series for the longest time: 29 years, 7 months, 21 days. The record was broken by Bob Barker on The Price Is Right (1972) in 2002.
Served in the U.S. Navy, 1943-1946.
Was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1987.
Lived in Norfolk, Nebraska from age 8 until he was inducted into the US Navy in 1943. Carson made monetary donations totaling nearly $5 million to causes and organizations there, including the Carson Regional Cancer Center (named after his parents), the high school's Johnny Carson Theater, the Norfolk Public Library, the Norfolk Arts Center, the Elkhorn Valley Museum and Research Center, and the Lifelong Learning Center at Northeast Community College. He last visited Norfolk in 1997 when he attended his former penmanship teacher Fay Gordon's 100th birthday party.
(March 19, 1999) Underwent emergency quadruple bypass surgery at Santa Monica Hospital (CA) after suffering a severe heart attack.
[on his first night hosting The Tonight Show] I have only one feeling as I stand here knowing that so many people are watching - I want my na-na!
[to Frank Sinatra] When you're in a romantic mood, whose records do you put on?
[during his monologue] My name is Johnny Carson, I've devoted a lifetime to comedy, and the next 90 minutes are going to seem like a lifetime to you.
[asked about his goal in life] To be a good person, a worthy citizen, and to rip NBC off for everything they've got.
[asked why he didn't keep the controversial edge that his predecessor Jack Paar has brought to The Tonight Show] I think that shows that have gone in just for controversy, to bring on two people of opposing view is very easy night after night. It's easier to that kind of show then it is to get laughs.
You don't have long to get used to Benny Hill. You can laugh right away. He's a funny guy.
We played in England for a while and we were not, as you say, a big smash. It's a pretty Americanised show and I think one of the problems was that here we're on every night, night after night, and I think the show played in London at different times late at night and only once a week, and I don't think that people got the chance to really get into the rhythm.
[to Miss Piggy who had asked him, 'Can you stand there in your rented tuxedo and honestly say that I am not Oscar material?'] Oscar Meyer, maybe.
[on returning to NBC] That ain't gonna happen. That ain't gonna happen. Uh-uh. I know NBC means well. But I am retired. I ain't going back on television. I made that decision a long time ago and it's served me well.
I think I left at the right time. You've got to know when to get the hell off the stage, and the timing was right for me. The reason I really don't go back or do interviews is because I just let the work speak for itself.
I still, believe it or not, have dreams in which I am late for The Tonight Show It's a performer's nightmare, apparently. I've checked with other people, and it occurs to them frequently. And it's frightening. Because I'm not prepared. It's show time and I'm going on-and I've got nothing to say! Jesus! I wake up in a sweat.
We have certain high standards on this show and some day we hope to live up to them.
I've seen Don [Don Rickles] entertain 50 times and I've always enjoyed his joke.
Egyptian President Sadat [Anwar Sadat] had a belly dancer entertain President Nixon [Richard Nixon] at a state dinner. Mr. Nixon was really impressed. He hadn't seen contortions like that since Rose Mary Woods.
[on Ronald Reagan] The President has asked for severe cuts in aid to the arts and humanities. It's Reagan's strongest attack on the arts since he signed with Warner Brothers.
I now believe in reincarnation. Tonight's monologue is going to come back as a dog.
If variety is the spice of life, marriage is the big can of leftover Spam.
[July 1991] In Los Angeles, the big story is that Police Chief Daryl Gates announced his retirement. It'll be sometime next year. Why can't a guy just retire without making a big deal of it?
[May 1991] I can empathize with President [George Bush]. I know what it feels like having a young guy waiting around for you to keel over.
[on the secrecy behind his nightly monologue] It's always been a ritual with me. I don't show it to Freddie [executive producer Frederick De Cordova] or Ed [sidekick Ed McMahon] or anybody. If you don't show it to anybody, then you get fresh reactions.
[To frequent guest Joan Embery, of The San Diego Zoo, after the marmoset she had brought had climbed on Carson's head and urinated] I'm glad you didn't bring a baby elephant.
[December 1967 interview by 'Alex Haley (I)' in "Playboy" magazine, on speculation that he was anti-social] I couldn't care less what anybody says about me. I live my life, especially my personal life, strictly for myself. I feel that is my right, and anybody who disagrees with that, that's his business. Whatever you do, you're going to be criticized. I feel the one sensible thing you can do is try to live in a way that pleases you. If you don't hurt anybody else, what you do is your own business.
[on his public persona] I'm basically not a public person. It's like [Jackie Gleason] said, "If you go out all the time to restaurants and so on, people say, 'Oh, he's everywhere', and if you stay home and eat dinner, they say, 'Oh, he's a recluse'."
[on why The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962) avoided controversial topics] I think it would be a fatal mistake to use my show as a platform for controversial issues. I'm an entertainer, not a commentator. If you're a comedian your job is to make people laugh.
I wanted the show to make the most of being the last area of television that the medium originally was supposed to be - live, immediate entertainment. I decided the best thing I could do was forget trying to do a lot of pre-planning. It all boiled down to just going out there and being my natural self and seeing what would happen.
I'm often asked, "What is your favorite moment during the 30 years you hosted ["The Tonight Show"]?" I really don't have just one. The times I enjoyed the most were the spontaneous, unplanned segments that just happened, like Ed Ames' infamous "Tomahawk Toss" that produced one of the longest laughs in television history. When these lucky moments happen, you just go with them and enjoy the experience and high of the moment.
[1993, interview in "The Washington Post"] I have an ego like anybody else, but I don't need to be stoked by going before the public all the time.
[on late-night television programs] We're more effective than birth control pills.
[December 1967, interview in "Playboy" magazine] Find me any performer anywhere who isn't egocentric. You'd better believe you're good, or you've got no business being out there.
[December 1967, interview in "Playboy" magazine] It's silly to have as one's sole object in life just making money, accumulating wealth. I work because I enjoy what I'm doing, and the fact that I make money at it-- big money--is a fine-and-dandy side fact. Money gives me just one big thing that's really important, and that's the freedom of not having to worry about money. I'm concerned about values--moral, ethical, human values--my own, other people's, the country's, the world's values. Having money now gives me the freedom to worry about the things that really matter.
Happiness is your dentist telling you it won't hurt and then having him catch his hand in the drill.
The Hollywood tradition I like best is called sucking up to the stars.
New York is an exciting town where something is happening all the time, most of it unsolved.
Happiness is seeing the muscular lifeguard all the girls were admiring leave the beach hand in hand with another muscular lifeguard.
If it weren't for Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of the television, we'd still be eating frozen radio dinners.
People will pay more to be entertained than educated.
If life was fair, Elvis [Elvis Presley] would be alive and all the impersonators would be dead.
Married men live longer than single men. But married men are a lot more willing to die.