Late night legend Johnny Carson invited Steve Martin to Tonight’s show as a young comedian, before he really became a stand-up icon or a movie star. And maybe it had a little something to do with their similar interests. It turns out that the two comedy stars got their start as amateur magicians.
As such, it seems fitting that Martin brought in The Great Flydini to visit his friend Carson in the last month of his 30 years as the host. It goes without saying that the hilarity ensued as Martin opened his fly to begin his show.
Steve Martin as the Grand Flydini in 1992
This particular moment provides further proof of Martin’s skills as a comedian as he pulled it all off in silence. Through the comedy of facial expressions – and an unusually active, open zipper – Martin created a masterful act.
Available on Youtube, the performance shows Martin performing magic tricks, performing a puppet show, blowing bubbles and even answering a phone with his pants fly.
Notably, it was during his last visit to Carson’s run on Tonight’s show, and he was one of the last guests chosen by legends. Only 16 days later, Carson signed for good.
The friendship of Steve Martin and Johnny Carson
Martin certainly earned his place as the guest of honor for Carson. He told SiriusXM host Howard Stern in 2016 that he spent his early years in Hollywood on Tonight’s show trying to impress the host.
“The first time I continued I thought, ‘I’ll be famous,’ he said on The Howard Stern Show. “But it didn’t work out that way.”
Martin told Stern that he would ultimately only come if he was invited as a guest host, as he was out of gear. But he added: “With the invited hosts, I still succeeded.”
And he formed a friendly bond with Carson like icing on the cake. He even visited the late night host’s house for dinner parties and games of poker.
“All we did was laugh,” he recalls on The Howard Stern Show. “The premise of the game of poker was laughter. And then every once in a while we would play poker.
Perhaps the notoriously private Carson took a liking to Martin because they had so much in common.
Johnny Carson and Steve Martin were both young magicians
According to Biography, Carson fell in love with magic at the age of 12. He bought a magician’s kit in the mail and began performing magic tricks in public under the name “The Great Carsoni”. He continued to improve and perform tricks for his shipmates during his time in the Navy, and even after. Carson’s friend and fellow comedian Dick Cavett remembers forcing a meeting with Carson during one of his last magic shows.
“We kind of caught him backstage before the show, and magicians hate it because they pack their stuff,” he reminded PBS. “He gave us that dirty look, but I walked over and told him we were wizards, and then he greeted us and showed us some great card manipulation.” He added that Carson “was a great card player”.
As for Martin, he also embarked on entertainment as a magician. According to his memoirs, Born Standing: A Cartoon Life, he worked in magic shops growing up. And he incorporated that love into his early comedy acts, which he arguably perfected with The Great Flydini’s visit to Carson in 1992.
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