The one and only Ed McMahon passed away in a Los Angeles hospital early Tuesday morning at the age of 86.
Although no official cause of death was given, it has been reported that McMahon suffered from bone cancer and other unknown ailments in recent months.
Perhaps best known as Johnny Carson’s straight man, whose bellowing “H-e-e-e-e-e-ere’s Johnny!” opened NBC’s Tonight Show, McMahon had dreamed of being a radio announcer since he was a child.
Born in Detroit in 1923, McMahon had a variety of odd jobs growing up: He called bingo games in traveling road-shows with his dad, sold vegetable slicers on the boardwalk in Atlantic City and worked as a clown on The Big Top TV show. He was also a Marine Corps pilot in both World War II and the Korean War.
But being a foil to Johnny Carson — a gig that lasted 30 years — is what made him famous. In a 1998 interview with WAMU’s Diane Rehm, McMahon said being Carson’s loyal sidekick was one of the best jobs in show business: “What a place to be, next to a guy as accomplished as he is. Here I am sitting next to him, doing counterpart to him!”
After Carson left the Tonight Show, McMahon moved on to other projects; in the 1980s and early ’90s he hosted Star Search, the talent show that helped launch the careers of the comedian Sinbad and singer Christina Aguilera.