Twenty years ago today–on May 13, 1994–Johnny Carson appeared on television for the last time in his life.
Johnny Carson was the biggest star on all of television. In our era of hundreds of channels and on-demand viewing, it is doubtful there will ever be another like him. For thirty years he was late-night television. When he retired from The Tonight Show on May 22, 1992, more than 50 million American watched his last show.
It was no secret Johnny thought David Letterman (at the time, host of the Late Night show which started just after Carson) should be his replacement. On the day he announced his retirement at an affiliates meeting in New York, he appeared on Letterman to confirm the reports. Up until his death in 2005, Johnny had been writing and sending Letterman jokes for his opening monologue.
On May 13, 1994, less than two years after leaving The Tonight Show, Johnny was a walk on guest on The Late Show with David Letterman. It was the last show of a week of shows taped in LA. Johnny didn’t say a word.
It was the last time he ever appeared on television. He died on January 23, 2005.