Released: October 16, 2009
The first Johnny Carson Lectureship will be at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 16 in the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center. The lecture is free and open to the public.
Jeff Sotzing, the president of Carson Entertainment Group and nephew of Johnny Carson, will be joined by three former “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” writers, Anthony DeSena, Andrew Nicholls and Darrell Vickers, for a unique look at the Tonight Show and behind-the-scenes insight into some of Carson’s most legendary clips.
The four will also participate in undergraduate and graduate classes that day.
Sotzing grew up in Philadelphia, Pa., which was 90 minutes away by train from New York City, where his uncle, Dick Carson, had just become the director of the Tonight Show, and his uncle, Johnny Carson, became the host in 1962.
“I sat in the control room watching Johnny and Dick work with some of the greatest talent in America,” Sotzing said.
After three years in the armed forces, he moved to California to pursue a short-lived career as a musician. He then went back to school and took a course in video tape editing at Pasadena City College.
“Considered ground-breaking at the time, the course was a great training aid for early 2-inch video editors,” he said.
A summer job at the Tonight Show in 1978 turned into filling for the show’s commercial production assistant.
‘The producer that I worked for was responsible for making all the live commercials done during the show,” he said. “This was exciting as things always went wrong. The sight of Johnny running backstage to eat the Alpo that the Alpo dog wouldn’t eat was hysterical.”
His editing background led to becoming the Associate Producer of the Anniversary Show specials and then other projects at Carson Productions.
“One of the most rewarding things I was able to participate in was the creation of the segments used in all the montages seen in the final show of May 22, 1992,” Sotzing said.
Sotzing received an Emmy as Producer of the Tonight Show of May 21, 1992 (which featured Robin Williams and Bette Midler as guests).
He now owns the company that controls the rights to The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.
“Needless to say, Uncle John has been a big part of my life,” he said.
Nicholls and Vickers, both British-born, met in junior high school and have been writing comedy together for print, stage, radio, TV, and film since 1976. They moved from Canada to Los Angeles in 1983, and from 1986 to 1992 were writers (from 1988, head writers) of the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, for which they received four Emmy nominations.
They have written stage and TV material for Mickey Rooney, Rodney Dangerfield, and George Carlin.
In 1994 they created the first sitcom filmed for the new WB Network, The Parent ‘Hood, now with 92 episodes in syndication. They have had 27 pilot scripts produced and have created, staffed or contributed to more than 100 television series. Their 2006 TV movie “Casper’s Scare School” became the basis of an animated series scheduled for Cartoon Network in 2009.
They have produced sitcoms and children’s shows for American networks ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, WB, USA Cable, ABC Family and Jetix/Disney.
DeSena has written Funniest Commercials of the Year and World’s Funniest Commercials each of the last three years. Previously, he was a staff writer on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Late Night with David Letterman and Saturday Night Live.
His freelance credits include Everybody Loves Raymond, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, The American Music Awards, The Writers Guild Awards and Super Bowls’ Greatest Commercials. He served as head writer on Later with Greg Kinnear, Sesame Street, for which he won an Emmy Award, and for the past 10 years, The Creative Arts Emmy Awards.