Former ‘Tonight Show’ sidekick Ed McMahon Dead at 86

Ed McMahon

Ed McMahon, former sidekick of Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show and Publishers Clearing spokesman died early this morning (Tuesday June 23) at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

The cause of death was not disclosed and it is not immediately clear why McMahon was hospitalized.


Ed McMahon, the former sidekick of Johnny Carson on “Tonight Show” turned commercial pitchman, has died.

McMahon’s death came after years of financial turmoil, a threatened foreclosure on his home, and a terrible fall that resulted in a broken neck.

Publicist Howard Bragman said McMahon died early Tuesday at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center surrounded by his family. Bragman didn’t give a cause of death, saying only that McMahon had a “multitude of health problems the last few months.”

McMahon was 86.

Though he had a career that spanned decades, and across various media, McMahon will forever be known as Carson’s announcer and comedic partner.

Along the way, he made “Hi-Yo!” and “Heeeeere’s Johnnnny” parts of the American lexicon.

McMahon was the straight man for Carson’s famed Carnac the Magnificent skits, during which Carson would guess an answer before McMahon even read the question.

“We didn’t rehearse,” McMahon told Larry King in a 2005 interview after Carson died. “You know, we never – I never saw it ’til, you know, I only – I’d see on the rundown, “Carnac,” that’s all I would see.”

McMahon was born in Los Angeles, and raised in Lowell, Mass. He put himself through college by pitching products on the Atlantic City boardwalk.

He got his broadcasting start at a radio station in his hometown, and started in TV in Philadelphia. During the 1950s, he was the emcee of the game shows “Missing Links,” “Snap Judgement” “Concentration” and “Who Dunnit?”

McMahon and Carson worked together on the game show “Who Do You Trust?” When Carson was named host of “Tonight” in 1962, McMahon went along.

For three decades McMahon introduced Carson nightly with a booming rally “Heeeeere’s Johnnnny.”

He remained with the show until Carson retired in 1992.

Outside of the “Tonight Show” McMahon was best known as the host of the talent competition “Star Search” and a commercial pitchman for American Family Publishers sweepstakes. He also hosted “TV Bloopers and Practical Jokes.”

More recently, McMahon battled poor health and financial issues. He told Larry King the financial issues were the result of a perfect storm of problems.

“Well, if you spend more money than you make, you know what happens,” he told King on CNN a year ago. “And it can happen. You know, a couple of divorces thrown in, a few things like that. And, you know, things happen. You want everything to be perfect, but that combination of the economy, I have a little injury, I have a situation. And it all came together.”

In February, McMahon resurfaced and poked fun at the financial troubles in a Cash 4 Gold commercial alongside MC Hammer that aired during the Super Bowl.

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