Ed McMahon, who was The Tonight Show's announcer and Johnny Carson's sidekick for thirty years, passed away early this morning at age eighty-six:
McMahon may have been the greatest TV Tonto of his generation, but he was not the only one.
Click through this TNR video slideshow for a look at other late-night comedy sidekicks, from the 1950s to the present.
Gene Rayburn: The Tonight Show, 1954-57
Rayburn, later known as the host of Match Game, was the first announcer for The Tonight Show alongside original host Steve Allen. Here, he appears in an extended comedy sketch called "Crazy Shots," starting at 0:54.
Hugh Downs: The Tonight Show, 1957-63
Downs was the announcer for Allen's successor, Jack Paar. Here, he introduces a clip of Paar speaking with Richard Nixon in 1963, as Nixon prepares to play an original composition for piano and strings.
Elliott, a writer for Late Night and later the star of Get A Life! and Cabin Boy, would often appear in skits with Letterman, featuring real and artificial guests such as Marlon Brando, "The Regulator Guy," and, here, "The Guy Under the Seats":
Hank Kingsley (Jeffrey Tambor): The Larry Sanders Show, 1992-98
On this HBO series about a fictional late-night comedy show, Tambor portrayed Sanders's sidekick Hank Kingsley. Here, Sanders complains about Kingsley's catchphrase--a takeoff of Ed McMahon's "Hi-yooooo!":
Edd Hall: The Tonight Show, 1992-2004
Hall, Jay Leno's announcer on The Tonight Show for twelve years, was often the victim of various slapstick injuries.
Andy Richter: Late Night with Conan O'Brien, 1993-2000; The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, 2009-
Richter, who would headline the sitcoms Andy Richter Controls the Universe and Andy Barker, P.I., is still best remembered for his seven years as O'Brien's sidekick. Since June, he has been reprising that role for The Tonight Show.
Joel Godard: Late Night with Conan O'Brien, 1993-2009
Godard served as Late Night's announcer for the entirety of O'Brien's tenure, frequently appearing in sketches and, in this clip, showing off his filmmaking prowess:
Guillermo Diaz: Jimmy Kimmel Live!, 2006-
Diaz, Kimmel's "parking attendant," is often spliced into the trailers of recently released films—especially ones featuring Kimmel's nemesis Matt Damon:
Chuy Bravo: Chelsea Lately, 2007-
Like Kimmel, Chelsea Handler hired a diminutive Mexican-American as her much-mocked assistant. This is, in the words of Slate's Troy Patterson, "an odd fact that could surely serve as fodder for a 10-page Latino-studies paper."
By Dylan Matthews