For three decades, Johnny Carson is the king of late-night comedy. However, it appears as if this can’t be further from the truth! Join Facts Verse as we explore why Johnny Carson hated this Tonight Show guest more than anyone.
Johnny Carson was the host of The Tonight Show Starring Carson for three decades, from 1962 to 1992. Over that time period, the beloved entertainer had a wide variety of guests. Guests that appear on the program are flourishing comedians that receive their first mainstream notoriety thanks to their performances. Notable figures that catch their big breaks thanks to Johnny and The Tonight Show include Jerry Seinfeld and Joan Rivers. In addition to these burgeoning stars, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson often featured A-list stars, such as Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope.
Throughout Johnny Carson’s time at NBC, the host grew to be one of the most bankable stars on the network. However, he never quite grew to surpass legendary comedian Bob Hope in stature. Bob Hope is always one step ahead of Johnny at the NBC offices. He occupies the very stage that Johnny uses for his time on The Tonight Show. According to legend, Bob could essentially book himself on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson whenever he wanted to. Bob would often request an appearance on the program when he had a new special to promote. When Bob asked for the opportunity to make an appearance, Johnny understandably accepted. However, it now appears as if Johnny never enjoyed having him on.
Sadly, it appears as if the on-screen relationship between Johnny Carson and Bob Hope was completely fake. Johnny despises the comedian, and only allows him on the show because he thinks that there is no other option. There are reasons that Johnny dislikes Bob, and he grows to dislike him even more as the years went on. When Johnny finishes his tenure on The Tonight Show in 1992, he dislikes comedian Bob more than any other guest.
One of the biggest reasons that Johnny Carson couldn’t stand Bob Hope was that Bob was completely incapable of improvisation. Johnny was quick on his feet and liked to have spontaneous banter with his guests. Bob is a legendary comedian, one assumes that the celebrity figure will have some wit of his own. However, it appears that this wasn’t the case. Even at Bob’s physical peak, he relies on comedy writers in order to come up with anything funny to say. Years later, his reliance on his writers grows, to the point where he asks them to understand what’s going on! Unlike Johnny, who retires when his health fails, Bob pushes beyond his years and attempts to perform when he can.
Due to Bob Hope’s lack of improvisational skills, Johnny grows to consider the legendary comedian to be a bad guest. However, he continued having him on the show because he felt that he couldn’t turn him down. Johnny bores the comedian’s scripted routines. They resent the fact that Bob’s stature at NBC make it so that he had no ability to deny his requests to appear.
Oftentimes, Bob Hope’s appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson would be staged to appear spontaneous. However, according to Johnny, there wasn’t a single thing about the comedian that was actually spontaneous. These fake surprise appearances will result in Bob rattling off a few scripted jokes. Making way for a reel of footage from an upcoming special. According to Johnny Carson, these reels of footage are poorly cut and much longer than Bob promises. If Bob claimed he only needed two minutes, the footage would generally run five minutes. This was another thing about Bob that rubbed Johnny the wrong way.
One time, Bob Hope is a guest on The Tonight Show. He notices that the audience is laughing exceptionally loud at the host’s monologue. And Bob to ask Johnny if he can use recordings of the laughter as recordings on his upcoming special. Johnny agreed to the request but was once again taken aback by Bob’s forwardness.
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Bob Hope’s appearances on The Tonight Show are irritating for Johnny Carson at the best of times. But they become even more annoying for the host once the legendary comedian’s health fails. If Bob is a hard time improvising when he’s at his limit, the act proves impossible during his later years. According to Johnny, Bob will have no idea what he is talking about unless the host stays on a script. If Johnny read the wrong question from his card, Bob is liable to give the answer to a different question! Seeing Bob in this state is one of the reasons that Johnny chooses to retire before his own health fails. According to legend, Johnny turned to his crew after one of Bob’s later performances and told them to shoot him if he ever ended up like the venerated comedian had.
Bob Hope was certainly one of the most frequent guests that The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson ever had. However, he’s not the only frequent guest that ever rubbed the beloved host the wrong way. Another frequent guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson was Joan Rivers. Johnny and Joan memorably developed a feud over the decades of Johnny’s tenure on the program. Joan had gotten her big break performing on the show with Johnny as a host, and their chemistry had been a big hit with audiences.
After Joan River’s initial appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, it’s host memorably made the comment that he thought Joan Rivers was going to become a star. Joan certainly did become a star, and also continued appearing on The Tonight Show for many, many years. It got to the point where Joan Rivers was called in whenever NBC needed someone to replace Johnny Carson, whether the latter figure was on vacation or just not feeling well.
Like with Johnny Carson and Bob Hope, one might’ve assumed the fact that Joan Rivers was such a frequent guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson meant that she was actually close friends with it’s host. Sadly, it appears that Johnny and Joan’s on-screen chemistry was once again a façade for the cameras. Johnny treated Joan like a business asset, and the two never developed a true friendship when the cameras weren’t rolling. When Joan Rivers was given an opportunity to host her own show in the 1980s, Johnny went to war with the female comedian.
According to the late Joan Rivers, the reason Johnny Carson was so mad about her getting a gig hosting a competing talk show was that she was a woman. Johnny Carson put out the word that anyone who appeared as a guest on Joan’s show wouldn’t be allowed on his. Because of this, Joan’s show ended up failing very early on. Though Joan later found some success as a daytime talk show host, she never again returned to hosting late night television. In fact, she couldn’t return to The Tonight Show until shortly before her death, when Jimmy Fallon had taken over as host. Jay Leno had been Johnny’s replacement, and he had refused to let Joan on during his time as host out of respect for Johnny.
While feuds are typical in Hollywood, the stars involved in them will oftentimes let them go as they’re lying on their deathbeds. However, this wasn’t the case for either Johnny Carson or Joan Rivers. Johnny went first, and he and Joan never patched things up before his death. In Joan Rivers’ last remaining years after his death, she never changed her tune and continued saying disparaging things about the late talk show host. According to Joan, Johnny had been her professional mentor and he had acted very unprofessionally when he started the ridiculous feud. Because of this, she had completely lost respect for him by the time of his death.
If Bob Hope and Joan Rivers were guests that Johnny Carson grew to hate throughout his tenure on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Don Rickles was a frequent guest that managed to stay on the beloved host’s good side. Like Bob Hope, Don Rickles was a legendary comedian that often appeared on The Tonight Show. However, unlike Bob Hope, the visits were always met with a warm reception by host Johnny Carson. If Johnny and Bob had no authentic chemistry, Johnny didn’t have this problem with Don. Not only did Johnny find Don Rickles authentically funny, but he also had no problem improvising with the comedian and developing interesting comedic banter.
Although one might’ve assumed that Johnny Carson and Bob Hope were friends due to the frequent appearances that the latter figure made on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, it appears that this couldn’t have been further from the truth! Now it’s time to hear from you: did you know that Johnny Carson couldn’t stand having Bob Hope as a guest on The Tonight Show, or did you think that Bob’s frequent appearances meant that they were friends? As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!