Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “King of the Night: The Life of Johnny Carson” as Want to Read:
King of the Night: The Life of Johnny Carson
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

King of the Night: The Life of Johnny Carson

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  182 Ratings  ·  22 Reviews
Johnny Carson was a phenomenon, the most successful performer in the history of television. For the better part of three decades, the enormously popular host of "The Tonight Show" was welcomed into millions of American homes -- as a friend, an entertainer, and an inexhaustibly sage and witty commentator on our lives and times. But there was a dark side to this charming and ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 476 pages
Published March 29th 2005 by Avon (first published 1989)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about King of the Night, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about King of the Night

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Apr 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Sought this book out after seeing the PBS "American Masters" special on Johnny. He was a big part of my growing up. Being old enough to stay up and watch the monologue was a rite of passage. He was such a fixture on the scene, brought so much joy to so many, and had such pervasive influence on our popular culture that it made me sad to learn what an unhappy man he was. So remote. Unable to really connect with his sons and the women in his life but unable to let them alone, either. As I read, I d ...more
Patrick Briggs
Sep 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Truth be told, I was drawn to this book because of the salacious rumors surrounding Johnny's life. No comment as to their veracity, but he clearly had demons that he never shook. Writing was good, although at times story veered too far from his life and into the complexities of his business dealings. The book is exactly what I expected it to be.
Jul 13, 2011 rated it it was ok
A bit disappointed....I loved Johnny Carson's show and would rather not know all of his problems.
Bobette Giorgi
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very little filler in this page-turner, lots of good juicy bits, some of which fans will not like, but it's the truth about Carson. The book is generally chronological, with some anecdotes (but not too many) from childhood through college and Navy days, followed by how Carson got to The Tonight Show. The book delves appropriately into Carson's private life and his four wives, showing a darker side to this comic talent. He was a mean drunk and a wife-beater who had many extramarital affairs (but ...more
May 06, 2017 rated it liked it
I grew up watching Johnny Carson and enjoyed him over the years especially so nice he grew up in Iowa and Nebraska. Although I had heard mention of some of his trials and tribulations, the book enlightened me on those topics. He was a driven success but not without life lessons to be learned. I enjoyed this book and recommend it to others like me who were entertained by Johnny's unique approach to nighttime television.
Mark Taylor
Jul 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In my summer-long quest to learn everything about Johnny Carson, I read Laurence Leamer’s 1989 biography of Carson, King of the Night: The Life of Johnny Carson. Even though it was published more than 25 years ago, Leamer’s book is the definitive biography of Carson. Leamer did his homework on Carson, as he interviewed hundreds of people who knew him.

King of the Night gives the reader a fascinating portrait of Johnny Carson, a man who was able to connect with millions of Americans every night a
Dec 01, 2016 rated it it was ok
Growing up, I was a fan of Johnny Carson. Watching The Tonight Show with my grandparents, parents, and aunt, I was looking forward to reading about the King of Late Night television.

I don't know if I can put my finger on why I didn't like it. The writing is dry, much drier than I would have expected - Carson is a comedy legend. It was almost like reading an encyclopedic view of his life, lacking warmth, humor, and all the things that I associate with Johnny Carson. That said, Carson the man is
Nov 06, 2013 rated it liked it
3.5 stars
Had recently watched the PBS American Masters documentary about Johnny Carson and then read the new book out by Henry Bushkin, "Johnny Carson". I started looking for a book that gave me more of Johnny Carson back story and that is how I came upon this book written in 1989. According to one review, this author did not ever meet or talk to Johnny Carson. Have to say that I loved watching Carson's Tonight show and still love watching clips today, but both this book and Bushkin's book confi
Oct 01, 2014 rated it did not like it
If you're looking for information about the Tonight Show or a history of early TV, this ain't it. It's about a man who's not very interesting and his marriage problems, with lots of misquoted transcripts from forgettable Tonight shows. There's a couple of good bits - a quote on Saturday Night Live: "Basically they do a lot of drug jokes...a lot of stuff I would consider being exceptionally cruel under the guise of being hip...they can't ad-lib a fart at a bean-eating contest". At a party, Carson ...more
Sep 08, 2011 rated it it was ok
One thing this book as going for it is anecdotes, as its practically full of them. It's downside is that these are all unprovable tales told from untrustworthy sources, (ex-wives, ex-lovers, ex-friends, ex-business partners and colleagues), all of which have been scorned by Carson and probably couldn't help to feel contempt, which could lead to bias. Having had a book entitled "King of the Night", I went in reading this book with the goal of learning how this King came to be, and more about "The ...more
Jun 23, 2012 rated it liked it
Johnny Carson was a man of two faces - one made up of the congenial man who forged an intimate relationship with his late night audience and one who was incapable of a healthy relationship with men or women who was paranoid and untrusting, cold and aloof. While I didn't like the man the author portrayed, he posed some interesting questions about the type of fame that Johnny Carson attained in his career. He was an institution who expected to be treated as such. Could anyone live that way and ret ...more
Jul 08, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of trashy journalism
Decidedly unfriendly biography of the longtime late-night host. It contains numerous salaciously entertaining if unprovable anecdotes, most sourced from various ex-wives and lovers. Much of the second half is devoted to Carson's financial and legal misadventures, which you may or may not find interesting. His final Tonight Show years and his post-television life are not covered as the book was written in the late 1980s.
Nov 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is as good as a biography as you're ever going to get, considering that the author never met his subject. Be careful what you wish for. If you want to get a portrait of the "real" Carson, you may not like what you find. Remember him as he was on TV. That's how he wanted to be remembered, and it's only fair if you didn't know him.
Sherri Beazley
Dec 25, 2013 rated it liked it
I never wanted to know this side of Johnny Carson, since I was a huge fan of his when he was alive. I was disappointed to learn that his played around on all of his wives, he was cold to people, and was very much a Scorpio. Meaning, once you cross a Scorpio you will never ever get forgiven. The book was insightful about the man, but disappointing to learn what he was truly like.
Dec 21, 2015 rated it liked it
Here's Johnny! An insightful biography of an American Institution. The book covers Carson's life growing up in the Midwest through his early TV career to becoming the host of the Tonight Show in 1962. The sordid and the superficial aspects of Carson's life are noted, and the point is well-made that nobody ever really got to know this guy.
Aug 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
I really liked this. I'd always heard about him being a recluse so it was interesting to learn more about why that was and what he was like when the camera was off. He's still greatly missed by me and millions of others, though.
Peter Karlin
Sep 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Decent portrait of a miserable man. Three stars more accurate but giving four because there were parts where I couldn't put it down and that's an accomplishment.
Caeser Pink
Jan 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
A very entertaining read. Well written and well researched. Most fans are aware that Carson had a dark side. Leamer deals evenhandedly with those issues. Neither judging or wallowing in them.
Sal Balistreri
Jul 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Interesting info about Johnny's personal life. I enjoyed the book but wondered how much of it was true.
It wasn't Carson that made me give this up; it was the heavy-handed, tangent-prone writing. Even in putting things into context, some things veered far away from the focus on Carson.
Aug 07, 2008 rated it liked it
Enjoyed reading about Johhny Carson's rise to King of the Night!
rated it it was amazing
Mar 01, 2011
rated it it was ok
Oct 23, 2008
Trudy A. Spike
rated it liked it
Jul 27, 2017
rated it it was amazing
Jan 24, 2012
rated it it was ok
Jul 15, 2013
rated it liked it
May 24, 2008
Richard D. Jacques
rated it really liked it
Jul 05, 2016
Gwen Hass
rated it really liked it
Oct 14, 2016
Mitch Rowden
rated it liked it
Jun 30, 2017
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Judy
  • Here's Johnny!: My Memories of Johnny Carson, The Tonight Show, and 46 Years of Friendship
  • Judy Garland
  • Girl Singer: An Autobiography
  • The Mysterious Montague: A True Tale of Hollywood, Golf, and Armed Robbery
  • Hemingway and Gellhorn: The Untold Story of Two Writers, Espionage, War, and the Great Depression
  • Payne Stewart: The Authorized Biography
  • American Triumvirate: Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, and the Modern Age of Golf
  • Gable & Lombard
  • Seinfeld: The Making of an American Icon
  • The Woman He Loved
  • My Trip Down the Pink Carpet
  • Arnie and Jack: Palmer, Nicklaus, and Golf's Greatest Rivalry
  • Norma Jean
  • Rat Pack Confidential: Frank, Dean, Sammy, Peter, Joey and the Last Great Show Biz Party
  • Rebel: The Life and Legend of James Dean
  • Gracie: A Love Story
  • The Knights Templar
Laurence Leamer is an award winning journalist and historian who has written fifteen books including five New York Times bestsellers. He has worked in a factory in France, a coal mine in West Virginia and as a Peace Corps volunteer in a remote village in Nepal two days from a road. He has written one novel and an off Broadway play but is primarily known for his nonfiction. His new book, The Lynchi ...more
More about Laurence Leamer...