Stars Align: How I Altered Johnny Carson’s Opening ‘Tonight Show’ Monologue

Roger Marsh
Johnny Carson hosting The Tonight Show.Photo byIn Wikipedia.

Serendipitous Celebrity Encounters

Have you had a chance positive encounter with a celebrity? I’ve had so many, I decided to make a list. And it’s long. This series will feature some of these often very odd or funny situations. And I’d like to tell your story here too.

Coming from the same hometown as Mister Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood fame — Latrobe, PA — I had the opportunity to spend time with Fred at the Pittsburgh studio along Fifth Avenue. The year was 1975 or 1976 and I was a college student at age 17 or 18.

For several days in a row, I drove from Latrobe to the studio and hung out with the cast and crew while they made an episode. A very fun experience for me. Sat in a two-man recording studio with Fred while he taped a commercial. Crawled around the set. Had lunches with the cast and crew.
Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.Photo byIn Wikipedia.

But on one of these days, Fred told me that they were pulling back on the number of episodes they created. Instead of five shows weekly, I believe they were intending to create only one show weekly.

The day ended and I drove home. That night, I turned on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. During his opening monologue, he explained that the longest-running children’s television show in history was going off the air — Mister Roger’s Neighborhood — and he wanted to present a skit to commemorate that. The performance was very funny.

The next day I walked into the Family Communications studio and saw Mister Rogers. I approached and asked if he had seen The Tonight Show, and of course, he had not. So I went on to say that Carson got it wrong — he reported you were going off the air.

I’ll never forget the look Mister Rogers gave me — and he simply said, “I’ll take care of it.” And that was that. The day continued at his studio.

But that night, I again turned on The Tonight Show and outstepped Johnny Carson for the opening monologue. He basically opened by saying something like, “Well folks, I got a call from Mister Rogers today and I got yelled at.” So he explained how his staff got it wrong, and that Mister Rogers was simply producing fewer shows each season, and not going off the air. And he apologized.

The next day at the studio I asked Mister Rogers’ if he had seen Carson’s apology — and he simply smiled.

Your Celebrity Story

Looking for fun and positive chance encounters with celebrities. No shaming or bashing — just interesting, strange, wild, or outrageously weird encounters. Keep it short — no more than 300 words. I would be rewriting your story, and using your story to quote you. I would identify you by first name and city-state — so like Cheryl from Ottumwa, Iowa. I will pick the best ones and include them in my column here under one of my own stories. Please send it to:

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ROGER MARSH is a media content producer with works in print, film, television, web, and stage. His “UFO Traffic Reports” published more than 7,000 times since 2009. He was a case researcher for the History channel’s “Hangar 1: The UFO Files.”

Franklinville, NY

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