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article with Johnny Carson's nephew

Wed Jul 24, 2013 1:59 am ... -1.1405983

Johnny Carson would be floored by the variety of late-night talk programs today, says nephew Jeff Sotzing, who's behind a new compilation of greatest 'Tonight' moments, says late-night king paved the way for today's hosts

Published: Tuesday, July 23, 2013, 2:00 AM
Updated: Tuesday, July 23, 2013, 2:00 AM

Johnny Carson wipes his eye after watching clips from earlier shows during the last taping of the ‘Tonight Show’ in 1992.

The original King of Late Night would be “amazed” by the smorgasbord of late-night talk shows littering the dial today, according to his nephew.

Johnny Carson “loved both Jay and Dave” — Leno and Letterman — Carson’s nephew Jeff Sotzing told the Daily News.

“He was very comfortable with Jay taking over the [‘Tonight’] show, though. He gave him his start on the “Tonight Show’ and really believed in his ability to take over. In terms of the late-night shows today, he’d be amazed by all of the options available to people. I think he’d enjoy that,” Sotzing said.

“But in the end, it all comes down to the quality of the show, and he was the best. These guys are all unique, but none of them would deny that they are each rooted in what Johnny did.”

And now, Sotzing is getting his uncle back into the game — sort of. In a deal with iTunes, he’s releasing nearly 15 hours of classic moments from the “Tonight Show,” along with a series of 50 alert tones for cell phones voiced by the show’s signature sidekick, Ed McMahon, are being released this week.

Sotzing, 60, was Carson’s confidant and the creative force behind curating his uncle’s priceless catalogue of episodes from a 30-year-run that essentially defined the genre and made Johnny a nightly fixture in American bedrooms.

“Johnny wanted a way to keep the show alive, and when we first put some of the highlights on VHS back in the ’90s, he was thrilled at how many people would approach him and thank him for bringing them back,” says Sotzing. “He’d be blown away to know how many more people will be able to relive it now.”

The release includes two volumes of compilations for download. The first includes “Best Of” compilations; the historic next-to-last episode, featuring Bette Midler and Robin Williams, and Carson’s favorite comedians. The second offers 16 edited episodes featuring marquee moments with Jay Leno and Don Rickles.

Among the segments in the new tribute will be that storied second-to-last show, which was produced by Sotzing.

“That night, after Bette and Robin Williams gave unbelievable tributes to him, he got a four- or five-minute standing ovation from the audience,” Sotzing said.

“We went backstage after the show and he just looked at us all and said, “Let’s just get in our cars and go home. We won’t be able to top that. So that’s what we did, and that was a perfect way to end things.”