In the 21st century, Ryan Seacrest has the face and voice every TV watcher is bound to recognize – he's everywhere, hosting and announcing and producing countless shows. But in the 20th century, there was another: Ed McMahon
Ed McMahon (Wikimedia Commons/Alan Light)
McMahon gained fame as the longtime announcer of The Tonight Show, where he served as Johnny Carson's sidekick and biggest booster… but it's hard to say he was best known for any one show. Many fans knew and loved him best for a show that presaged today's talent competitions. Long before American Idol and The Voice, there was Star Search, hosted by McMahon from its 1983 debut through its cancellation in 1995.
Some fans may prefer McMahon’s even longer gig, another early example of the reality TV we love today: TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes. McMahon co-hosted the show with Dick Clark, offering a mélange of funny classic TV commercials, Punk'd-style practical jokes, and gag reels from our favorite movies and TV shows.
Even if you don't watch reality TV and you never have, you've probably seen his American Family Publishers Sweepstakes commercials… or at the very least, received one of those iconic envelopes with his picture.
And then there was the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon, which McMahon co-hosted for an impressive 35 years. McMahon's familiar laugh spiced up the show, especially when he gently teased Lewis.
But we have to admit, we loved Ed McMahon best on The Tonight Show. He was the perfect sidekick for Johnny Carson, introducing him (“Heeeerrre’s Johnny!”) and laughing at his jokes for more than 30 years. Though Carson was clearly the star of the show, he and McMahon worked together, with McMahon often serving as straight man to Carson’s goofball. McMahon often set up Carson's jokes… and sometimes he made jokes of his own.
Three years after Ed McMahon's death, others may have picked up the torch he passed… but no TV host will ever be quite like him.
Written by Linnea Crowther