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Johnny Carson's final 'Tonight Show' monologue

Johnny Carson delivers his final monologue in May 1992.
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Johnny Carson: The life and legacy of an American icon.
Comedian, magician, radio announcer, comedy writer, television host
Host of NBC's "The Tonight Show" for 30 years -- 4,531 episodes
October 23, 1925, in Corning, Iowa
Homer "Kit" Lloyd Carson, a power company manager, and Ruth Hook Carson
B.A., University of Nebraska, 1949
Ensign, U.S. Navy, 1943 - 1946
Alexis Mass, 1987-present
Joanna Holland, 1972 - 1983, divorce
Joanne Copeland, 1963 - 1972, divorce
Joan "Jody" Wolcott Carson Buckley, 1949-1963, divorce
Christopher, born 1950
Richard, born 1952, died 1991 in car accident
Cory, born 1953
Source: CNN Research
Entertainment (general)
Johnny Carson

Here is the monologue from Johnny Carson's final "The Tonight Show" on May 22, 1992:

Around the studio, we are still on an emotional high from last night; we have not come down yet. I want to thank Robin Williams and Bette Midler for last night, for giving us an excellent show. They were absolutely sensational.

The show tonight is our farewell show; it's going to be a little bit quieter. It's not going to be a performance show. One of the questions people have been asking me, especially this last month, is, "What's it like doing 'The Tonight Show,' and what does it mean to me?"

Well, let me try to explain it. If I could magically, somehow, that tape you just saw, make it run backwards. I would like to do the whole thing over again. It's been a hell of a lot of fun. As an entertainer, it has been the great experience of my life, and I cannot imagine finding something in television after I leave tonight that would give me as much joy and pleasure, and such a sense of exhilaration, as this show has given me. It's just hard to explain.

Now it's a farewell show. There's a certain sadness among the staff, a little melancholy. But look on the bright side: you won't have to read or hear one more story about my leaving this show. The press coverage has been absolutely tremendous, and we are very grateful. But my God, the Soviet Union's end did not get this kind of publicity. The press has been very decent and honest with me, and I thank them for that . . . That's about it.

The greatest accolade I think I received: G.E. named me "Employee of the Month." And God knows that was a dream come true.

I don't like saying goodbye. Farewells are a little awkward, and I really thought about this -- no joke -- wouldn't it be funny, instead of showing up tonight, putting on a rerun? NBC did not find that funny at all.

Next question I get is what am I gonna do? Well, I have not really made any plans. But the events of this last week have helped me make a decision. I am going to join the cast of Murphy Brown, and become a surrogate father to that kid.

During the run on the show there have been seven United States Presidents, and thankfully for comedy there have been eight Vice Presidents of the United States. Now I know I have made some jokes at the expense of Dan Quayle, but I really want to thank him tonight for making my final week so fruitful.

Here is an interesting statistic that may stun you. We started the show Oct. 2, 1962. The total population of the Earth was 3 billion 100 million people. This summer 5 billion 500 million people, which is a net increase of 2 billion 400 million people, which should give us some pause. A more amazing statistic is that half of those 2 billion 400 million will soon have their own late-night TV show.

Now, originally NBC came and said, what we would like you to do in the final show, is to make it a two-hour prime-time special with celebrities, and a star-studded audience. And I said, well, I would prefer to end like we started -- rather quietly, in our same time slot, in front of our same shabby little set. It is rather shabby. We offered it to a homeless shelter and they said 'No, thank you.' I am taking the applause sign home -- putting it in the bedroom. And maybe once a week just turning it on.

But we do have a V.P.I. audience -- V.P.I. audience? We could have had that, too. What I did was ask the members of the staff and the crew to invite their family, relatives and friends, and they did; with some other invited guests. My family is here tonight; my wife, Alex, my sons Chris and Cory. My brother Dick and my sister Katherine, a sprinkling of nephews and nieces. And I realized that being an offspring of someone who is constantly in the public eye is not easy. So guys, I want you to know that I love you; I hope that your old man has not caused you too much discomfort. It would have been a perfect evening if their brother Rick would have been here with us, but I guess life does what it is supposed to do. And you acccept it and you go on.

About tonight's show. This is not really a performance show. This is kind of a look-back retrospective. We are going to show you some moments in time. Some images of the many people, and there have been some 23,000 people. We are going to show you a little excerpt of how the show is put together, so go get some more cheese dip and we'll be back in just a moment.

Copyright 1992, NBC's "The Tonight Show"

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