Frank Rich got it right years ago about Carson.
Like nearly everyone else in America, I have tuned in Johnny Carson after the following events:
A phone does not ring. The person you were hoping to hear from doesn't call, so you turn to the reliable voice in Burbank instead.
A door is slammed. Someone in your house is angry, maybe you, and you need a parental stand-in to calm you down.
A party is over. But the buzz lingers, and you need another party, someone else's party, to help you wind down.
A child cries inconsolably. Until the unexpected sound of late-night laughter chases the demons away.
On these nights, and on so many others for almost three decades, Johnny Carson has been the last man America sees before it goes to sleep. So why is he never in our dreams?
One other question, now that the end is near.
Is the "Tonight" show the last thing Johnny Carson sees before he goes to sleep
Besides that, he a) refined the art of telling a bad joke, and b) was firmly on the David Letterman side of the Letterman-Leno battle.