Though McMahon was surprised to be offered the job as Carson’s sidekick, the two soon proved to have a strong chemistry. Carson was, by nature, introverted and dry-witted; McMahon was the boisterous and outgoing second banana, content to give Carson straight lines or laugh uproariously at his jokes (a characteristic much-parodied by comedians). Video Watch Comedian Joan Rivers recall McMahon »
Carson made cracks about McMahon’s weight, his drinking and the men’s trouble with divorce. McMahon was married three times; Carson, who died in 2005, had four wives.
McMahon was also the show’s designated pitchman, a talent he honed to perfection during “Tonight’s” 30-year run with Carson, even if sometimes the in-show commercial spots fell flat.
For one of the show’s regular sponsors, Alpo dog food, McMahon usually extolled the virtues of the product while a dog eagerly gobbled down a bowl. But one day the show’s regular dog wasn’t available, and the substitute pooch wasn’t very hungry.
McMahon recalled the incident in his 1998 memoir, “For Laughing Out Loud.”
“Then I saw Johnny come into my little commercial area. He got down on his hands and knees and came over to me. … I started to pet Johnny. Nice boss, I was thinking as I pet him on the head, nice boss. By this point the audience was hysterical. … I just kept going. I was going to get my commercial done.
” ‘The next time you’re looking at the canned dog food …’ — he rubbed his cheek against my leg — … reach for the can that contains real beef.’ Johnny got up on his knees and started begging for more. I started petting him again … and then he licked my hand.”
McMahon also promoted Budweiser, American Family Insurance and — during the most recent Super Bowl — Cash4Gold.com. Entertainment Weekly named him No. 1 on its list of TV’s greatest sidekicks.
Edward Leo Peter McMahon Jr. was born in Detroit, Michigan, on March 6, 1923. His father was a promoter, and McMahon remembered moving a lot during his childhood.
Blessings of Peace
to Ed’s Family
Lady Bee ✿