The original late night duo is reunited.
June 23, 2009 7:26 AM   Subscribe

Everyman's announcer: Ed McMahon enjoyed a remarkable entertainment career. From pitching vegetable slicers to passerbyers on the Atlantic City boardwalk to delivering the original king of late night to a national audience every night for thirty years; Ed McMahon's voice is part of the American fabric. Sadly, Ed McMahon has passed away.

Born in 1923 to a father who himself was a part-time entertainer and show promoter, Ed McMahon's first gigs all called on his voice: calling bingo games, working as a carnival barker, hawking wares on the Atlantic City boardwalk. As he reached adulthood, with World War II approaching the horizon, Ed decided to become a Marine fighter pilot. After training and significant effort he recieved his commision and wings, and after finishing the Corsair Operational Training Unit in Green Cove Springs, Florida, he was asked to remain as an instructor in the same unit.

After his work with training was finished, World War II ended and McMahon returned to civilian life while still part of the reserves. His first broadcasting gig was for a minor role at WLLH-AM in Massachusets, however his real broadcast career took off at WCAU in Philadelphia. Starting in 1949 for $75 a week, he announced programs for WCAU's radio and TV programs, as well as performing as the clown that opened the CBS show "Big Top" which was shot at WCAU-TV.

The Korean War came calling and Ed McMahon served honorably, flying more than 80 artillery spotting missions before returning home. I told you all this so that you can mentally picture a young Ed Mcmahon going "HIYOOOOOOO!" while diving his plane towards an enemy target.

Returning from the war, Ed McMahon returned to work for WCAU in Philadelphia. After several successful programs including a morning show called "Get Happy" and a local late night show "McMahon and Company", Ed travelled to New York to begin work on a new ABC-TV program called "Who Do You Trust?" a daytime quiz program hosted by a young Johnny Carson.

When Johnny Carson succeeded Jack Parr on NBC's "The Tonight Show", he took Ed McMahon with him. Together, the team produced 6,583 programs over thirty years. Ed McMahon delivered Johnny nearly every night, and the two together were never without laughs.

Hyperlinks!

HIYOOOOOOOO!
Tonight Show: Ed had a few too many drinks. ;)
Tonight Show: A classic Ed and Carnac sketch.
Star Search Intro Sequence
Publisher's Clearing House Commercial

After Johnny retired from "The Tonight Show", Ed McMahon continued on announcing, taking on the role of MC on the talent show "Star Search", which lasted well into 1995. He also was the spokesman for the Publisher's Clearing House, whose promises of fortune further cemented himself in the minds of television viewers throughout that time.

Ed McMahon died peacefully in his sleep this morning at the UCLA Medical Center. Johnny Carson finally has someone to riff with at his desk upstairs.
posted by cavalier (76 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
You know what else is remarkable? How little clips of him I could find on the tubes. :(

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posted by cavalier at 7:27 AM on June 23, 2009


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posted by DaddyNewt at 7:28 AM on June 23, 2009


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posted by PhillC at 7:30 AM on June 23, 2009


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posted by ElmerFishpaw at 7:31 AM on June 23, 2009


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posted by owtytrof at 7:33 AM on June 23, 2009


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posted by solipsophistocracy at 7:35 AM on June 23, 2009


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posted by bz at 7:35 AM on June 23, 2009


Weird Al's great tribute.

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posted by JBennett at 7:38 AM on June 23, 2009


This has got me thinking about Phil Hartman, who, despite not being a mimic, provided the definitive version of him "HA HA HA YOOOUU ARE CORRECT SIR!"). It's hard to believe that Phil has been dead for 11 years now.

RIP, both of you gentlemen.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:39 AM on June 23, 2009 [19 favorites]


He was also in The Incident.

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posted by PHINC at 7:39 AM on June 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


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posted by winks007 at 7:40 AM on June 23, 2009


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posted by Thorzdad at 7:42 AM on June 23, 2009


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posted by Fleebnork at 7:43 AM on June 23, 2009


The Publisher's Clearinghouse catalog was my nerd porn growing up. I'm too young to remember Johnny Carson. But I do remember the joy that it gave me to have something arrive in the mail with my name on it - and enclosed were promises of untold riches and books galore.
posted by greekphilosophy at 7:50 AM on June 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's been a long time coming, Ed's been spiraling around that drain for months now. Hopefully it doesn't hurt anymore.
posted by davelog at 7:51 AM on June 23, 2009


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posted by twins named Lugubrious and Salubrious at 7:51 AM on June 23, 2009


What Ed McMahon tribute is complete without Jeffrey Tamber as Hank Kingsley:

Hank's Night in the Sun Part 1
Hank's Night in the Sun Part 2
Hank's Night in the Sun Part 3
posted by geoff. at 7:51 AM on June 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


my mother always 'allowed us' to fill out the copious & various sweepstakes offers that came in the mail. i remember thinking that certainly our number would be up soon, and ed mcmahon would come to *my* house with a big check.

then there was that one episode of the mary tyler moore show where ted baxter was thinking of leaving the newsroom to take a job hosting a television game show. mr. grant called ted into his office to talk him out of it. 'you're going to be a quizmaster,' mr grant told ted. 'is that what you want to be, ted? a quizzzzzzzzzzmaster?' i thought that was a terribly funny scene. and for some reason, when mr. grant said that, ted reminded me of ed mcmahon.

ec mcmahon annoyed the hell out of me. but so did my crazy uncle john who used to wear hawaiian shirts & bring us 'presents' like cases of toothpaste. i miss crazy uncle john, and i'll miss mr. mcmahon. heyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyOH!

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posted by msconduct at 7:53 AM on June 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


i was gonna come in here and make some crack about Publisher's Clearing House...

and then i googled around and realized he worked for American Family Publishers.
posted by yonation at 7:54 AM on June 23, 2009


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Nice post. CNN's obit relates a couple of neat additional tidbits.
posted by zarq at 7:56 AM on June 23, 2009


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posted by deCadmus at 7:57 AM on June 23, 2009


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posted by jquinby at 7:57 AM on June 23, 2009


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posted by geekyguy at 7:58 AM on June 23, 2009


You know what else is remarkable? How little clips of him I could find on the tubes. :(

That may be because he's a bygone era's Ryan Seacrest.
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 8:00 AM on June 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


How'd you like to ride along with the Budweiser clydesdales?

Well...

Heeeeere we go!
posted by evilcolonel at 8:00 AM on June 23, 2009


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posted by chillmost at 8:01 AM on June 23, 2009


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posted by longsleeves at 8:01 AM on June 23, 2009


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posted by doctor_negative at 8:01 AM on June 23, 2009


I sometimes wonder if Ed watched the proliferation of hit talent competitions like American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, America's Next Top Model, etc., and ground his teeth, muttering, "I did all of that 25 years ago -- on one goddamn show."
posted by brain_drain at 8:02 AM on June 23, 2009 [7 favorites]


I'm glad Donald Trump pulled his house out of foreclosure last year for him in what turned out to be the last year of his life.
posted by availablelight at 8:15 AM on June 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


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posted by brundlefly at 8:18 AM on June 23, 2009


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posted by lilkeith07 at 8:19 AM on June 23, 2009


I am glad that we finally have an Ed McMahon post done properly with more text and more links. Now everyone can enjoy not looking at seven links instead of not looking at one before making a dot or putting in their two cents about Ed McMahon.
posted by flarbuse at 8:24 AM on June 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


When I was pretty young, a friend of mine and I made a road trip from the midwest out to Los Angeles. One of our stops was Hollywood, and we were randomly driving around, no idea where to go. While waiting at a stop light, Ed McMahon walked in front of our car in the crosswalk. Just one of those random events that kind of takes you by surprise.

RIP, Ed.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:25 AM on June 23, 2009


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posted by lord_wolf at 8:35 AM on June 23, 2009


21 years ago I bought a copy of "Ed McMahon's Barside Companion" at a University garage sale for a quarter. It's a highly entertaining look into the culture of American pubs of yesterday, before they were blanketed in televisions and noise.

Picture of the book

It's the 2nd best used book I ever bought (the first is "The Foxfire Book" which I keep on my desk at the office.)
posted by digibri at 8:36 AM on June 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


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posted by Night_owl at 8:46 AM on June 23, 2009


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posted by Malice at 8:46 AM on June 23, 2009


I don't know if it's just the Euro version of cnn.com, but the headline on the front page reads "Johnny Carson's sidekick dies" which I thought was pretty crappy - but I guess he may not be as well known over here, at least not as well known as Johnny. Sad, but as others have said, I hated seeing him have to rap and act like a fool to pay his bills toward the end.

He was a fixture in my childhood. And somehow I'm still callous enough enough to have changed my facebook status to "Heeeereeee's Deathy!" Maybe I'm just a jerk, but I think he would have laughed...
posted by monkey!knife!fight! at 8:50 AM on June 23, 2009


not until i saw that cash4gold commercial a couple months ago, did i realize he was still alive.

oh ed, you've come back to me only to go away again.

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posted by fuzzypantalones at 8:56 AM on June 23, 2009


I sometimes wonder if Ed watched the proliferation of hit talent competitions like American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, America's Next Top Model, etc., and ground his teeth, muttering, "I did all of that 25 years ago -- on one goddamn show."

Just think--all of those, plus all their junior versions, plus Last Comic Standing, all limited to a single one-hour timeslot each week.

Man, I miss the 80s.

"Hot Property!"
posted by Sys Rq at 9:00 AM on June 23, 2009


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posted by ejazen at 9:02 AM on June 23, 2009




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posted by Ugh at 9:08 AM on June 23, 2009


Actually, McMahon worked for American Family Publishers, not Publishers Clearing House. The YouTube linked in the post is a bad edit job of two ads cut together.

AFP is long gone. PCH is still with us.
posted by FfejL at 9:15 AM on June 23, 2009


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posted by Mental Wimp at 9:16 AM on June 23, 2009


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posted by Ber at 9:16 AM on June 23, 2009


I don't know...what did he REALLY add to the show? A lot of heyyoooo, herrrreee's Johnny, and sitting there giggling. Big deal.

Oh wait...Star Search....goody.

I would have loved to see him on Solid Gold.
posted by dasheekeejones at 9:22 AM on June 23, 2009


I blame Conan and Andy. They were just too much for him to take.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:26 AM on June 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Whoa, he died?
posted by kldickson at 9:31 AM on June 23, 2009


brain_drain: I sometimes wonder if Ed watched the proliferation of hit talent competitions like American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, America's Next Top Model, etc., and ground his teeth, muttering, "I did all of that 25 years ago -- on one goddamn show."

Actually, believe it or not, I just spoke to a producer-type friend of mine who apparently helped produce several of the last seasons of Star Search as well as keep in touch with Mr. McMahon. To hear him say it, while Ed was graceful about it, you've very well nailed his sentiment. Huh. :)
posted by cavalier at 9:35 AM on June 23, 2009


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I would like to point out that he was very good in The Incident.
posted by lordrunningclam at 9:35 AM on June 23, 2009


dasheekeejones: I don't know...what did he REALLY add to the show? A lot of heyyoooo, herrrreee's Johnny, and sitting there giggling. Big deal.

Oh, come on now. Comedy. Great comedy often involves a foil or straight man. You can't look at clip after clip of Carson and him riffing it up and still say that... can you?
posted by cavalier at 9:36 AM on June 23, 2009


When I first heard this news, I could hear his voice in my head. Flashbacks to my youth, I suppose, and all those commercials, Star Search episodes, and Jerry Lewis Telethons.

I also remembered a Howard the Duck issue (#33, post-Steve Gerber) where the title character wins a sweepstakes and is greeted by a McMahon parody who ends up hanging around for the rest of the story. Said parody wasn't too kind.

I'll miss him.
posted by May Kasahara at 9:37 AM on June 23, 2009


I liked those cash4gold commercials he did. They made me laugh.

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posted by ahdeeda at 9:43 AM on June 23, 2009


'is that what you want to be, ted? a quizzzzzzzzzzmaster?'
Classic Lou Grant.

I remember feeling that ol' Ed was under-appreciated every Labor Day weekend - folks would go on and on about how poor Jerry Lewis stayed up all those hours during the Telethon. But Ed was there with him the whole time, staying just as awake (maybe more, because he did the MC duties when Jerry caught his little catnaps) and no one congratulated him.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:27 AM on June 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


He was a very convincing villain in Fun with Dick and Jane.

I wish he would have had the opportunity to do more serious acting. I think he could have done Mamet.

I'll have to try and find a copy of The Incident. Sounds intriguing.

Oh, and

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posted by marsha56 at 10:44 AM on June 23, 2009


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I have strong childhood memories of listening to the Tonight Show through my bedroom wall, where my parents had left the TV on as they fell asleep.

For a long time, there was a life-size cut-out of Ed McMahon in the window of the Medical Supplies shoppe next door, selling some elderly-life-style-enhancement product. While walking by, I'd always look up at him. A few months ago, they took the cut-out out of the window, and that's when I thought he'd died--it was then that I mourned (lightly) for him.
posted by not_on_display at 11:14 AM on June 23, 2009


Bummer.

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posted by schyler523 at 11:23 AM on June 23, 2009



I don't know...what did he REALLY add to the show? A lot of heyyoooo, herrrreee's Johnny, and sitting there giggling. Big deal.


So they had some interview clips with him on NPR this morning for a fairly long obit piece they did. He talked specifically about it and to paraphrase the man, his attitude was basically "holy shit, do you see what I do for a living?" For a guy who did it for decades, he was still pretty jazzed about being up there with Carson every night. He sounded surprisingly modest and realistic about where he fit into the show and that he just really loved being a part of it.

His surprisingly self-deprecating last ad appearance.
posted by GuyZero at 11:24 AM on June 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


There's a kind of magic in a good host-sidekick dynamic. Ed & Johnny had that. It wouldn't have been as good a show without him, even if Carson was the guy telling all the jokes.

Sad to see another broadcasting legend bow out. I hope he's happy where ever he is now.

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posted by EatTheWeak at 11:31 AM on June 23, 2009


HOW

SAD

IS IT?

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posted by wendell at 11:45 AM on June 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


a legendary character, great laugh, and fodder for so much imitation! we'll miss you, Ed!

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posted by kuppajava at 12:56 PM on June 23, 2009


McMahon was probably the most famous graduate of the Catholic University of America (my alma mater), and was active in the alumni association for many years. Their tribute is here.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 1:35 PM on June 23, 2009


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posted by mikelieman at 2:02 PM on June 23, 2009


You can get your own "Hiyoooo!" here.
posted by erskelyne at 2:27 PM on June 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


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posted by SuzySmith at 2:31 PM on June 23, 2009


I don't know...what did he REALLY add to the show? A lot of heyyoooo, herrrreee's Johnny, and sitting there giggling. Big deal.

And it wouldn't be an obit thread without someone taking the time to express their casual dismissal of the person in question. Well done.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:55 PM on June 23, 2009


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posted by gomichild at 4:10 PM on June 23, 2009


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posted by brandz at 5:00 PM on June 23, 2009


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"Heeeereeee's Deathy!" Should be "Heeereeee's Grimy!" /lame Sims 2 reference
posted by jeoc at 6:27 PM on June 23, 2009


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posted by exlotuseater at 6:53 PM on June 23, 2009


Mildly distasteful seeing Conan do a tribune. NBC kinda gave up the right to mourn, seeing as how they killed off the Tonight Show when they forced Johnny and Ed off the air and stuck a yutz like Leno in his place.
posted by RavinDave at 12:52 AM on June 24, 2009


I bet a lotta lotta people just cashed in on a dead pool.
posted by jeremy b at 8:37 AM on June 24, 2009


What's sad is how a man worked so hard all his life, and still ended up broke in his final years. How does something like that happen?

Some of my fondest memories of youth were being allowed to stay up with the grandparents and watch Johnny Carson. It's only now, in reviewing clips that I realized how much Ed set the tone of the show. It's sad that even in death, he still got second banana billing.

Rest in peace, Ed. May the Clydesdale honor guard escort you to the afterlife of your choice.
posted by dejah420 at 11:42 AM on June 24, 2009


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