Joan RiversTalks About Johnny Carson's Dark Side

Friday, January 10, 2014

Joan Rivers talks with Henry Bushkin, who was Johnny Carson’s lawyer, wingman, fixer, and confidant, about their experiences working with the King of Late Night. Bushkin is the author of  Johnny Carson.


Rivers and Bushkin talked about what they called Johnny Carson’s dark side, which the public doesn’t know about. They both had a falling out with Carson, and never heard from him again, but they both acknowledged how important he was to their careers. Rivers said, “I went on his show once and I was a star. If he anointed you, you were set for life. He had a great eye for talent.” She added: “When he laughed at something you said, you were never so happy in your life.”

Bushkin and she discussed how isolated Carson became, and how big a part of his life his show was. Bushkin said he didn’t take many breaks from “The Tonight Show” because “the lack of applause was like a lack of blood.” Rivers asked Bushkin if it’s impossible to have stars like Carson today. “I think so. I think in television it is,” Bushkin said. “It’s not possible to command the kind of audience that he did.” Rivers said she thinks Jimmy Fallon is the only current talk show host that comes close to Johnny Carson’s style.



Henry Bushkin

Comments [20]

Aet525 from Park Slope

So sin city Artie, we who you in your articulate and well reasoned argument refer to as "total idiots are the "dart throwing individuals"? I can see by your sophistication, your charm, your thoughtfulness and your intelligence why you are a fan of Mz. Rivers. And yes, I'm sure if I could bear to listen to that crone that I would learn a great deal about the "real world". Yes she is a voice of the people isn't she?

Jan. 10 2014 02:38 PM

Not only was this interview tacky, one got no new insight into Johnny Carson. It was totally self serving. And she whitewashes the facts surrounding her falling out with Carson.

Jan. 10 2014 02:28 PM
Joseph from Union City, NJ

Joan was amazing! Please, please have her as your sub again!
Loyal listener and supporter,

Jan. 10 2014 02:02 PM
Sin City Artie from Sin City, USA

So many NPR fans are total idiots...Joan has biting wit...Joan had good guests...Joan has her act together...BUT I suspect those verbal dart throwing individuals lack so much basic knowledge of the "real world" that exists for so many of us other folks...Grow up and keep your traps shut...I thank you...

Jan. 10 2014 02:01 PM
kim from Brooklyn

honestly, She is awful. I listen to NPR for intelligent discussion and reasoned interviews and that is not what Joan Rivers is about. Her questions are insipid and her jokes off and often offensive and self pimping about her publishers in bad taste. Seriously NPR you can do better

Jan. 10 2014 01:45 PM
art525 from Park Slope

thatgirl from manhattan- did you notice that when Joan Rivers got a show it didn't last? Maybe that's why she wasn't found to be a suitable replacement for Carson. Joan Rivers is unbearable even in a couple of hours subbing for Leonard Lopate. Rivers is an ugly soul, nasty, superficial and unfunny. And her plastic surgery just makes her creepy. She has the never to trash people who are more attractive and more talented than her. That seems to be her whole M.O.I don't for the life of me understand how she has managed to have a long career when she demonstrates a complete lack of talent. Let's hear it for mediocrity indeed. You can hear it right now on WNYC.

Jan. 10 2014 01:42 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

The pairing of Rivers with Bushkin is nothing less than brilliant. Lopate wouldn't have done the chat half the justice she has.

She wasn't "disloyal" to Carson--they enjoyed a great relationship up to the moment she told him about her deal with Fox. She wasn't going to inherit the Tonight Show mantle. It would have been impossible for many reasons, but the first being that at that time, they wouldn't have the guts to give it to a woman, even of her accomplishment. They wouldn't now--or haven't you noticed? But plenty of the walking dead are perfectly happy with the rather un-funny Jay Leno, so let's hear it for mediocrity.

That was the prospect: Joan could work for Carson as a part-time guest host, or get her own show. What would you do for your career? He was wrong to feel it was disloyal; he should have embraced her success, such that it could be in that day. But he's now passed, and you can't "forgive" her for her "disloyality?" Pathetic. Grow up.

Bushkin, on the other hand, was a turncoat. He made millions, via usury, off Carson; then he writes this book once he's broke. Then he fails to mention it in his bankruptcy hearing months back. He deserves your ire--not Joan!

Jan. 10 2014 01:05 PM
antonio from baySide

It would have been great if the LLS brought back Martha Plimpton; She was so refreshing! Maybe next time?

Jan. 10 2014 12:43 PM
Liz O'Carty

The other talk show hosts ALL admit Carson was king. They didn't talk about the book out of respect, not jealousy.

Jan. 10 2014 12:42 PM
Elle from Brooklyn

Any or all of this interview may be true, but it comes off sounding like nothing more than a hatchet job. Not one of NPR's finest moments.

Jan. 10 2014 12:38 PM
Annie Hawkins from Bronx, NY

This is off topic, but the last time Joan Rivers was on the Leonard Lopate show she made a comment that Michelle Obama's inaugural gown made her look like she was "ready to pick cotton." Leonard Lopate did not call her out on it, but it was a vile, disgusting and racist thing to say, and not funny.
I am not listening to the Leonard Lopate show today because of this woman, as I do not want to hear anything she has to say ever again.
You know Joan, if you don't like something maybe sometimes you should just keep your mouth shut.

Jan. 10 2014 12:38 PM
Art525 from Park Slope

Wow I had the misfortune of turning on the radio and finding these two. Ugly. It has always mystified me why this woman actually has had a career. A comedian who isn't funny. And these two are vampires here feeding off the dead. Just ugly.

Jan. 10 2014 12:36 PM
tom from astoria


It's wrong that Joan Rivers is talking with Bushkin about Johnny Carson. You should know better than that, you should know their history with him.
Also, you shouldn't allow Joan Rivers to guest host, with her flashy but stupid statements on politics.
It may get your show some quickie national attention, tbut he Leonard Lopate Show will have to take a long, hot shower after these two are done.

Jan. 10 2014 12:31 PM

Joan asks, 'who is he' regarding Carson. I say who is she ????? She sent him a condolence note. Good for her.
She expected to be acknowledged for it, was that the reason she sent it. Such bad form Joan, boo to you. Hasn't she gotten enough mileage from that connection already. Talk about self important. Puleez.

Jan. 10 2014 12:25 PM

Best interview and show of 2014 already!

Jan. 10 2014 12:21 PM
Sean from Brooklyn

Dear Joan,

My wife Mellini wrote a book with a whole chapter on YOU. Have you read it yet?

Hope you love it.

Jan. 10 2014 12:13 PM
tom from astoria

EVRYONE SHOULD KNOW that Joan Rivers and Bushin WRONGED Johnny Carson -- and Carson would not talk to them again. ("Bombastic Buskin" was the joke Johnny told) So why are they giving the low down on Carson. Im shutting off my radio.

Jan. 10 2014 12:12 PM
Shelly Schultz from NYC

I know Joan very well..have great respect for her....I know Bushkin too....he neglected to tell how he had been fired by Carson for what was purported to be larceny and that he filed for bankruptcy and neglected to put the proceeds from this book in his Bankruptcy papers...I THINK Henry is a fraud and for him to carry on talking about Carson in this manner is beyond reprehensible....I know much about JC, having been on the staff from the very beginning till 1969 and have never had the thought to talk about Johnny in any negative way....I knew Bushkin's law partners as well and watched him parade around like "he invented show business" being Johnny's lawyer and "friend"....'A FRIEND....INDEEED!!!!!! PATHETIC....Some friend.....

Jan. 07 2014 10:01 PM
Rob K from Big Island, Hawaii

If you look at Trump's total career and public statements you can't be serious about him being President. You may cherry pick a few things you can support. But remember that even a broken clock is right twice a day. Trump won't do the right thing even twice a day but he will be on the RIGHT all of the time.

Jan. 07 2014 09:24 PM
stan chaz from Brooklyn

Joan says she’s happy Donald Trump got the president to unveil his long-form birth certificate.
Joan Rivers is team Donald Trump! spoke with the Emmy-Award-winning comedian at a LensCrafters event on April 28 and she revealed that she supports Donald despite the fact he publicly bashed President Barack Obama. She credits Donald for the President finally revealing his official birth certificate on April 27, and she believes Obama coming to New York this week shows he isn’t doing his job in the Oval Office.

Many believe that Donald was way out of line for saying things like: “there’s a lot we don’t know about this guy,” when referring to the President, for repeatedly saying he had “terrible grades” in school and mocking his Harvard and Columbia degrees. But Joan doesn’t see this as a negative, and she thinks Donald should run on the Republican ticket in 2012.

“We’re all yelling and screaming about Donald, but Donald is the one that got President Obama to do it,” Joan says. “Donald is the first man in history that got a President to show something that a President shouldn’t show. We could use Donald’s push and self confidence and total authority in a lot of our statesmen. Donald is going to shake it all up [if he runs] and it’s great. The country needs shaking up.”

Jan. 07 2014 06:43 PM

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