The Class Act Of Ed McMahon

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - July 01, 2009
On ‘The Tonight Show,’ there wouldn’t have been a Johnny Carson without an Ed McMahon

I asked for one Christmas present a couple of years ago and my mom obliged.

No, it was not a golf club or the high-tech toy of the moment. I really wanted the box set of The Best of Carson.

Yes, that Carson.

But The Tonight Show was not a one-man show. Yes, Johnny was the star, but just as a Hall of Fame pitcher needs a great catcher, Carson would not have been Carson without McMahon.

Ed McMahon passed away last week, ravaged by cancer, pneumonia and other ailments.

Unfortunately, he was still making headlines before his death - not for his 30-plus years as Johnny’s cohort and foil, but for his financial troubles. On the brink of losing his home, it took the generosity of others to help him live his final days with a roof over his head.

I don’t want to remember Ed McMahon as a troubled man staring mortality in the face in his latter days. I want to remember Ed McMahon as a good soldier supporting his boss at every turn. If a monologue joke bombed, Ed was there to pick up the pieces with his trademark guffaw. A bit would go astray and he would take the face-saving barb delivered by Johnny.

But there were moments where the co-pilot would dress down the pilot. Those were great moments, albeit few, where McMahon would emerge from the shadows and step into the sunlight. Classic.

Ed McMahon was a class act. His stewardship of Star Search and being the face of the Publishers Clearinghouse giveaways were memorable. But even in a starring role you never thought the show was ever about McMahon. He was one of the last of a dying breed of entertainer. He was the kind of selfless performer who takes the spotlight and trains it on others.

I can almost hear him now with a hearty, “You are correct, sir!”

Ed McMahon was 86.

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