Johnny Carson Warned Against Getting Political on Late Night TV

"The Tonight Show" legend Johnny Carson revealed in a "60 Minutes" interview why he believed late night TV hosts should not get political.

Late night host Johnny Carson was universally beloved for many reasons, one being that he intentionally avoided alienating his viewers by jumping into the fraught waters of politics during his years on the “The Tonight Show”.

Unlike Carson, today’s late night talk show hosts feel it’s their job to inject their political views into monologues and interviews, despite knowing it costs them not only their reputations as good hosts but audience ratings as well.

Carson was asked in a “60 Minutes” interview with Mike Wallace about his thoughts on people who criticized him for never taking on a serious controversy.

He gave a very clear and simple answer.

Why Johnny Carson Didn’t Get Political On Late Night TV

Johnny Carson hosted “The Tonight Show” through the decades of the Vietnam conflict and Watergate scandal. Yet he kept his opinions to himself.

“Tell me the last time that Jack Benny, Red Skelton…any comedian…used his show to do serious issues,” Carson began. “That’s not what I’m there for. Can’t they see that?”

“Why do they think that just because you have a Tonight Show you must deal in serious issues,” he continued.

“That’s a danger. It’s a real danger,” Carson warned.

Late Night TV Gets Political

The king of late night, who inspired and influenced so many of the current class of hosts, calls out the rampant self-importance we see in late night today.

Late night hosts like David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel, and Stephen Colbert clearly missed the memo.

“Once you start that, you start to get that self-important feeling that what you say has great import. And, you know, strangely enough, you could use that show as a forum to sway people. And I don’t think you should as an entertainer.”

It would certainly be a novelty in this day and age to have a show that just focused on entertainment rather than a platform to push a host’s personal political preferences. 

Based on his comments, one can imagine Johnny Carson might not be a fan of the many late night hosts that have succeeded him.

Watch next: It’s Impossible Not to Laugh at These Two Comedians With Johnny Carson

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