Movies · Stuff You Should Know · Television



Several of my esteemed blogging colleagues have already posted their farewells to actor-announcer-Carson sidekick Ed McMahon, who’s gone on to his rich reward at the age of 86. (I encourage you to check out these tributes by Ed CopelandTony FigueroaJ. Kingston Pierce…and though he hasn’t put anything up yet as of this writing, I’m sure Mark Evanier will weigh in with some McMahon anecdotes shortly.) While I’m always saddened to hear when a favorite actor or actress or musician or what-have-you passes from the scene, I think in Ed’s case it was sort of a blessing—he had a myriad of health problems (including breaking his neck after taking a fall in March 2007) that kept him from overcoming a series of financial troubles he had incurred over the years. (I mean, when Donald Trump starts paying your rent, you pretty much know your cloud is not going to have a silver lining.)

Ed McMahon with George Segal in Fun with Dick and Jane (1977)

McMahon cemented his place in television history as second banana to Johnny Carson on the popular Tonight program, a show that essentially coded once Carson packed it in…and no Jay Leno or Conan O’Brien fan is going to convince me otherwise. (The two men had previously worked together on a popular daytime game show, Who Do You Trust?) McMahon always downplayed his role in the nightly proceedings, claiming that he was just there to laugh at Johnny’s jokes. But I think McMahon sort of short-shrifted his career; he was a tremendously talented comic actor when he worked solo—providing the only real laughs as George Segal’s boss in Fun with Dick and Jane (1977) and an equal amount of chuckles as Adam Arkin’s right-wing father in Full Moon High (1981), which features a funny reference to the Alpo commercials he did on Carson’s program. (He also has a nice turn in Larry Peerce’s The Incident [1967], in which he plays one of several passengers traumatized on a NYC subway train—take that, Pelham One Two Three!—by hoods Tony Musante and Martin Sheen.)

mcmahonBut for most of his career, he was content to just sit back and chuckle at his boss’ jokes (“You are CORRECT, sir!”) and play himself in a variety of guest appearances on such programs as Here’s LucyAmazing StoriesALFThe Cosby Show, and many, many more. Occasionally he would get a chance to take center stage and show audiences how multi-talented he was—his most successful venture co-hosting the popular TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes with the eternally youthful Dick Clark. (And I’m sorry to report this, but Ed’s going to have to do a little time in Purgatory for this indiscretion…and even longer for the Publishers’ Clearing House ads.)

If there is a place out in the Great Beyond where we mosey to after checking out of Hotel Earth, rest assured that it’s going to be a dandy place now that Ed has joined Johnny for what is surely the crème de la crème of all the Tonight Shows. (Just thinking of the celebrities available to stop by and sit on Carson’s couch for an anecdote or two is enough to make any fan’s mouth water.)

R.I.P, Ed. You will most assuredly be missed.

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