*Arsenio Hall says there’s a special place in his heart for the late Johnny Carson, the legendary host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” the undisputed king of late night and the subject of a two-hour “American Masters” documentary to air Monday (May 14) on PBS.
Narrated by actor Kevin Spacey, the film features 45 original interviews with Carson’s friends, family and colleagues, including his second wife, Joanne, Dick Cavett, Doc Severinsen, and other “Tonight Show” staff.
Performers who appeared, or began their careers, on Carson’s “Tonight Show” are also interviewed, including David Letterman, Jay Leno, Mel Brooks, Jerry Seinfeld, Ray Romano, Drew Carey, Garry Shandling, Steve Martin, Angie Dickinson, Ellen DeGeneres, Carl Reiner, Don Rickles, Bob Newhart, Joan Rivers, David Steinberg — and a certain African American rival host that Carson actually cherished as a necessary and valuable voice in the late night landscape.
“Arsenio was the first to really make a dent in [Carson’s] ratings, and he was reaching a younger audience. And Arsenio grew up adoring Johnny Carson,” says the documentary’s director Peter Jones. “Arsenio became a magician as a kid because of Johnny Carson. He became a nice dresser because of Johnny Carson. He absolutely worshipped Johnny. But he very consciously tried to do a different kind of show. He wasn’t trying to compete with Johnny. …He wanted to reach the children of Johnny’s audience.”
Arsenio, meanwhile, had no idea that Carson was a huge fan of his as well. He explains below.
“American Masters Johnny Carson: King of Late Night” premieres nationally Monday, May 14, 2012 at 9 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings). Watch the promo below.