Johnny Carson is one of the most renowned performance artists of recent time, being one of the
most recognized icons in the United States through his night talk show, The Tonight Show with Johnny
Carson. His fame was already present in the late 1960’s, but his peak of influence was during the early
to mid 1970’s. This period of time was host to a lot of turmoil and change in the culture and views of the
United States, which is reflected in Carson’s comedy. To understand the Carson’s comedy, one must
reflect on the United States at this period of time.
One of the most important events of the 70’s is the end of the Vietnam War. Carson was an
opponent to the United States’ participation in the war, but didn’t vocally share his stance due to the
want of not upsetting any part of his viewer demographic.
The sociopolitical atmosphere of the United States reflected the current generation of
counterculture forces that sprung up out of the ideas and grounds left by the 1960’s hippie era.
Unfortunately, a lot of the “love” counterculture was forgotten and soon escalated into violence.
protests were appearing, especially among college aged individuals and led to conflicts
between government forces and students, such as the infamous Kent State Shootings, where four
student protesters were killed and another nine were shot by National Guard troops. Antiestablishment
forces like the Weather Underground took to bombing of many places, including governmental offices
The 1970’s were also host to various political upheavals. Richard Nixon because president,
reflecting a very republican attitude in the voting demographic, contrasting from the countercultural
movements very much alive in the period of time. Nixon also laid the groundwork for the Reagan era
War on Drugs, which we have seen through time, gives huge disadvantage to minority and lower
classes, filling our prisons with nonviolent drug offenders. Later, Nixon would be implicated in the
Watergate scandal and forced to step down. Not all the political movement was negative, however. The
1970’s also saw great strides in civil rights. The Civil Rights act of 1964 was still being implemented
across the nation, resulting in significant dynamism in areas where segregation had been prominent.
Interracial marriage was recognized by the Supreme Court, declaring state laws that prohibited such
The television industry also experienced significant change. 1950’s era family sitcoms were
declining in popularity until the mostly disappeared in the mid 70’s. Country Westerns started to
disappear as well. This decline in older genres left a hole which was filled by a different brand of
entertainment. Detective and cop shows became mainstream. The attitude turned more edgy and urban,
allowing for women and minorities to make their presence on the television stage. Daytime television
also began to see a rise of game shows and soap operas with an...