“He had a great gift. He was a magnificent straight man. People like him don’t exist anymore.” Don Rickles on Ed McMahon
TV host/actor Ed McMahon may be best remembered as the “second banana,” or the sidekick, for emcee Johnny Carson in “The Tonight Show” (1979-1992), during which he created the catchphrase “He-e-e-e-re’s Johnny!” After leaving the show, McMahon hosted the long-running talent competition “Star Search” (1983-2003) and created another contest called “Next Big Star” (2001-2002). He also acted in various films, such as Fun With Dick and Jane (1977), The Golden Moment: An Olympic Love Story (1980, TV), “Who’s the Boss” (1991), “The Simpsons” (1998) and “Scrubs” (2005).
As a member of the Marine reserves, McMahon retired with the rank of Colonel (1983) and later became a Brigadier General in the California Air National Guard. He also served on the boards of The Marine Corps Scholarship Fund, the Horatio Alger Association and St. Jude’s Ranch for Children. In November 2001, he and former US President Gerald Ford received the Ninth Annual Tony Orlando Yellow Ribbon Medal of Freedom Patriot Award.
McMahon, who recently won a substantial lawsuit related to toxic mold that overtook his home and memorabilia collection, authored an autobiography titled “Here’s Johnny!: My Memories of Johnny Carson, The Tonight Show, and 46 Years of Friendship.” The memoirs notoriously disclosed his sexual relationship with seven separate women over the course of his long career.
The ex-husband of Alyce Ferrill (1949-1976) and Victoria Valentine (1977-1989) is married to Pam Hurn. He is the father of five children.
Childhood and Family:
Edward Leo McMahon was born in Detroit, Michigan, on March 6, 1923, but grew up with his grandparents in Lowell, Massachusetts. His first job was as a carnival barker.
Ed made an on-air debut at a Lowell radio station while studying at Boston College. However, his education was interrupted by World War II, in which he became a Marine fighter pilot and flight instructor until 1946. Ed then graduated from the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, with a BA in Speech and Drama. In 1949, Ed moved to Philadelphia to begin his TV career. Four years later, as a Marine reserve, he was sent to the Korea War.
Ed now lives in Beverly Hills, California, with his third wife Pam Hurn, whom he married on February 22, 1992. Previously, he was married to Alyce Ferrill (1949-1976) and Victoria Valentine (1977-1989). Ed has five children, four from Alyce (Claudia, Linda, Jeffrey, and Michael Edward who died of cancer in 1995) and one adopted daughter (Katherine Mary, adopted with his second wife).
In Philadelphia, Ed McMahon worked as an on-air personality and a producer/writer of several TV programs, including an early morning show, a noon cooking show and a pop music program. He also made the pilot for the WCAU local station’s “That McMahon’s Here Again” (1950) and appeared as the clown in CBS’s “The Big Top” (1950, also served on the writing staff).
Formerly an announcer for “Bandstand” (1952-1958), McMahon had his life changed forever after being hired as the announcer/sidekick for the ABC game show “Who Do You Trust” (1957-1962), hosted by Johnny Carson. It soon brought him the host job for the game show “Missing Links” (1963) and “Snap Judgment” (1967), as well as an acting role in the movie The Incident (1967, as Bill Wilks) and The Enormous Egg (1968, TV).
McMahon also became a guest for “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” (1968-1970), “Make Your Own Kind of Music” (1971) and “The Flip Wilson Show” (1972-1973). In 1973, he could be seen as Duncan in the movie Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off. McMahon later co-starred with Jane Fonda and George Segal in Fun With Dick and Jane (1977), playing Charlie Blanchard.
“That was mine. That same night we started, just walking out, I felt it’s not enough to just say, ‘Here’s Johnny Carson.’ It was an important moment. And I remembered that when I was in radio, if I had to introduce anybody, I would try to expand it, like: ‘He-e-e-e-re’s Roger so-and-so!’ So I said, ‘That’s what I’m going to do.’ And the next day I knew I’d struck oil, because walking down the hallway at NBC I saw people ducking out of their offices and going, ‘He-e-e-e-re’s Johnny!’” Ed McMahon on the idea of “He-e-e-e-re’s Johnny”
Reuniting with Johnny Carson, McMahon continued his task as the announcer and “second banana” (sidekick) in “The Tonight Show” from 1979 to 1992. At the time, he was famous for the drawn-out yell, “He-e-e-e-re’s Johnny,” as well as for the nickname “Human Laugh Track,” which referred to his booming voice and constant laughter. McMahon left the show when Carson left.
In 1979, McMahon hosted the short-lived game show “Whodunit” and acted in the TV movie The Kid From Left Field. Still taking a supporting role, McMahon could be seen as Marvin ‘Marv’ Jordan in The Golden Moment: An Olympic Love Story (1980, TV) and Lou Parker in The Star Maker (1981, TV). In 1982, he was cast as Mr. Gillespie in the drama movie Butterfly, a role which unfortunately gave him a Razzie award for Worst Supporting Actor.
Following the series “Television’s Greatest Commercials” (1982), the host made another landmark performance in the syndicated TV talent show “Star Search,” which lasted for 20 years (from 1983 to 2003). Then, he teamed up with Dick Clark as the hosts of “TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes” (1984).
For the next several years, McMahon made guest appearances in a number of TV shows, such as “Amazing Stories” (1985), “ALF” (1988, as himself), “The Cosby Show” (1989), “Who’s the Boss” (1991), “Living Single” (1993) and “Nurses” (1994, as Detective Salsbury). Getting involved in a family program, he co-hosted the TV specials Jerry Lewis Stars Across America (1995), along with Norm Crosby, Jerry Springer and Kathleen Sullivan. McMahon also provided the voice for the Engineer’s Henchman in the cartoon series “Bruno the Kid” (1996).
In the WB sitcom “The Tom Show” (1997), McMahon had the regular role of morning talk show host Charles ‘Charlie’ Dickerson. He was also featured in the famous cartoon “The Simpsons” (1998), the movie The Vegas Connection (1999) and the documentary project Let Me In, I Hear Laughter (2000).
McMahon later produced his own talent competition named “Next Big Star,” which became a weekly program on PAX-TV in 2001-2002. A year earlier, the talent contest was launched on the Internet with the plan of being the online version of “Star Search.”
McMahon, who became a commercial spokesperson for American Family Publishers and Annheiser Busch (including Budweiser beer), then returned to guest roles in such shows as “That ‘80s Show” (2002), “Duck Dodgers” (2003, did voice-acting), “Higglytown Heroes” (2004, voiced Tugboat Captain Hero) and “Scrubs” (2005, as himself). He currently hosts the weekend talk program “Lifestyles Live,” aired on the USA Radio Network.
- Razzie: Worst Supporting Actor, Butterfly, 1983