Ed McMahon

Best known as the longtime sidekick to Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, Ed McMahon died June 23 at 86. For younger viewers, memories of McMahon may be as much from his American Family Publishers career as from his nearly 30-year tenure at Tonight. But one has to appreciate what McMahon did for TV by so wholly coming to own the role of the host's foil.

McMahon's career would be unimaginable to anyone who lived before TV existed: his Zen-like job was mainly to be Carson's companion. On one hand, McMahon was the brash voice of Tonight ("Heeeeeeeeere's Johnny!") who bantered...

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