Johnny Carson (1925-2005) was the host of The Tonight Show from 1962 to 1992. Over the course of his career, Carson won six Emmy Awards, the Peabody Award, the Kennedy Center Honor in 1993, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992. Both he and Jim Henson were inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1987.
Growing up in Nebraska, the shy Carson learned magic tricks, and after a stint in the U.S. Navy, began his career in radio and television. Getting his break from Red Skelton, Carson soon began hosting game shows before taking over as host of The Tonight Show.
A frequent emcee of the Academy Awards, Carson conversed with Miss Piggy during the 52nd annual awards on April 14, 1980, where he ribbed the pig over her failure to garner a Best Actress Nomination for her work in The Muppet Movie.
In the 1960s, Jim Henson drew up a proposal for a Muppet special that would have been hosted by Carson, but the project never materialized. However, in 1971 Carson appeared on Pure Goldie, a Goldie Hawn TV special that also featured Kermit the Frog.
As Carson's tenure on The Tonight Show continued, guest hosts became more frequent. For nearly the entire run, each Monday would feature a guest host, and sometimes entire weeks would feature guest hosts for the vacationing Carson. Kermit and the Muppets were tapped as guest hosts on April 2, 1979 as a promotion for The Muppet Movie.
- It was hoped that Carson would be available for a concept Jim Henson was developing called Johnny Carson and the Muppet Machine, but it was never produced.
- Cookie Monster fills the Johnny Carson role in a Tonight Show spoof, The Nighty-Night Show, in the 1974 television special Out to Lunch.
- Footage of Johnny Carson from The Tonight Show was used in the Muppet Babies episode "I Want My Muppet TV!", as Baby Piggy and Baby Fozzie both imagine being on the show (which Piggy refers to as "The Johnny Carson Show"). One of the clips used in the show is Carson introducing Miss Piggy.
- Baby Fozzie recommends Carson perform at Uncle Statler's birthday party in the Muppet Babies episode "Happy Birthday, Uncle Piggy." When Carson gets stuck in traffic, Fozzie goes on in his place.
- In a 1988 Sesame Street sketch, Big Bird gets a phone call from a "Johnny", who tells Big Bird that he can't come over and play a game. Jay Leno offers to help, saying, "I love sitting in for Johnny!"
- In a comic strip from the The Muppets, Miss Piggy gets an invitation to be on The Tonight Show by Johnny (who's only shown from the back). Kermit comments he's another "Stage-Door Johnny."