When NBC first called John William Carson -- Johnny, to his fans -- to host its Tonight Show, Carson turned them down. An introvert at heart, he dreaded the idea of having to interview celebrities for what was then 105 minutes every day. Eventually, NBC persuaded Carson to overcome his apprehensions. He took over The Tonight Show in October 1962 and, by the time Carson retired on May 22, 1992, he was so fundamental to American culture that fellow comic legend Bob Hope lamented Carson's retirement was "like a head falling off of Mount Rushmore."
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