23 Oct

Steve Martin autograph written on October 23, 1976

34 years ago on Saturday, October 23, 1976 comedian Steve Martin hosted “Saturday Night Live” for the first time. It was a partnership that would flourish and, to this day, Martin is closely associated with the show. The autograph seen above was signed by Steve Martin on that day at the NBC studio in Brooklyn, where that week’s show was originating. Below you can what’s on the other side of the paper Steve autographed: The date, written on my admission slip to the PSAT exam. (I went straight from the exam to the studio).

What's on the other side of Steve Martin's autograph? The date on my admission slip for the PSAT exam, which was administered that morning.

In fact, for three weeks that October, SNL (then called “NBC’s Saturday Night”) for the first time, performed the show away from Studio 8H at 30 Rock. Why? NBC News had turned 8H into “Election Headquarters” for the upcoming Presidential election, so SNL had to find another temporary home. In addition to Martin’s debut the other SNL episodes done in Brooklyn were on October 16, hosted by Karen Black, and on October 30, with host Buck Henry.

Also on this date in TV history

Johnny Carson, circa 1960

85 years ago on Friday, October 23, 1925 Johnny Carson, the “King of Late Night,” was born in Corning, Iowa. Carson was born to Homer and Ruth, and he would go on to leave a giant imprint on the world of television.

Although born in Corning, Iowa the Carson family moved quite a bit due to Homer’s job with a utility company. After several stops in other Iowa towns, the family settled for good in Norfolk, Nebraska, where Johnny grew up. It was in this classic version of small-town America that the future star began performing. After learning magic young Johnny appeared around town as The Great Carsoni and built the foundation for his career.

Unused ticket for "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" for April 9, 1992.

Johnny Carson went on to host “The Tonight Show” from 1962 to 1992, almost 30 full years, and turned “The Tonight Show” into an institution. It became a nightly “must-see” for many and Carson himself became a barometer of public opinion.

Offices for "The Tonight Show" at NBC Burbank, 1979.

Sometimes Carson affected public opinion as well. His influence was never more evident than one night in the 1970’s when Carson turned a small news item into a national story. He mentioned reading an article about a possible toilet paper shortage. (His joke was that this would be a problem that would “touch every American.”) Within days Carson had actually created a nationwide toilet paper shortage as Americans raced to stock up so they wouldn’t be left empty-handed.

Johnny Carson's name on the marquee at the Sahara Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, June 1979.

Carson left “The Tonight Show” in 1992 and pretty much retired from public life. He died on January 23, 2005 due to emphysema.

Johnny Carson, one of television’s biggest stars ever  — a man who donated millions of dollars to his hometown of Norfolk, Nebraska — was born 85 years ago on this date in TV history.

3 Responses to “<THIS DATE IN TV HISTORY”

  1. Elaine Lettieri October 30, 2010 at 11:47 am #

    Hi Paul,

    I am really impressed.Your life so far seems to have been exciting and interesting. I really enjoyed reading your info and seeing the pictures. Continued good luck to you.


  2. Raj June 15, 2015 at 10:34 pm #

    Thanks Paul for this bolg. I’ve been on a 70’s TV nostalgia kick of late. Would love to hear more details of the SNL dress rehearsals during the golden years.

    Curious if you know, can we see you in the audience on the broadcast, particularly whenever they do that audience caption gag after a sketch…


  1. Raised by TV - December 6, 2010

    […] was the night the young comedian made his first appearance on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.” Throughout Carson’s 30 year reign, stand-up comedians vied for a coveted spot on […]

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