Johnny Carson Rejected a Lazy Part on ‘The Simpsons’ Until the Writers Got Creative
After Johnny Carson ended his 30-year run and retired from The Tonight Showhe was asked to lend his voice to the animated classic the simpsons. But the original idea for his part of him did not exactly suit him.
Depicting him as himself, writers wrote him to be a “bad brother-in-law”-type staying with the Simpsons, lazing around their house in his retirement. He turned that pitch down, but the writers weren’t ready to give up on him. They finally got him to agree to lend his voice to him when they created something perhaps more suitable.
Why Johnny Carson turned down ‘The Simpsons’
On an episode of The Friars Club PodcastMike Reiss, once a showrunner for the simpsonsspoke about how he wrote for The Tonight Show and “got fired by Johnny Carson, which everybody did.”
As luck would have it, he was part of a group of writers who initially wrote Carson into an episode of the simpsons after hearing that the late-night legend wondered why the record-breaking cartoon had so many “big stars” on the show but had never asked him. So, they “immediately wrote Carson into the show” and asked him to do it, but he said no.
Notably, they approached him with a role that would have depicted him staying with the Simpson family while in town with nothing better to do than to laze around their house. He would have been a “bad brother-in-law” character, staying on the couch, drinking Homer’s last beer, etc.
Carson “just turned it down,” Reiss said, adding it was brought to his attention that they made Carson look like a “slob.” He realized they needed to modify the part if they were going to get him on board with it. Eventually, they approached him with a plan that painted him as a multi-talented superhero-type, singing opera and juggling cars. And he agreed to do it.
Johnny Carson was on ‘The Simpsons’ as a man of many talents in 1993
Carson eventually provided a voice on the simpsons in an episode called “Krusty Gets Kancelled” in 1993. Some lists have named it one of the best Krusty the Clown episodes in the show’s long history. Instead of depicting the late-night legend as inactive in retirement, they portrayed him as if he could do anything. That was more in line with his many talents of him.
Reiss said Carson drove the 90 minutes to the studio, recorded his part in about 10 minutes, and then sat for hours signing autographs for script covers (per The Friars Club Podcast).
Johnny Carson had a ‘Scrooge-like’ change of heart ‘late’ in his life
Reiss noted on The Friars Club Podcast that he didn’t get to know Carson when he was a writer for him, but he did interact with him later while working on the simpsons. “Late in life, Carson just had a Scrooge-like change of heart,” he shared. “He just became a much, much nicer man.”
According to Reiss, Carson went from a host who never saw his writers to someone who would meet with them twice a week, even inviting them to his $81.5 million mansion in Malibu. Furthermore, the host “intended to remember” his former writer from him, which Reiss recalled was “cute.”
“He had a nice young wife, and he just went out a happier guy,” he explained.