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“The Tonight Show”: Entertaining and evolving through the eras

March 15, 2016
March 15, 2016

panelNORFOLK, Neb. – Producers from three different eras of “The Tonight Show” will be special guests at a featured part of this summer’s Great American Comedy Festival in Johnny Carson’s hometown of Norfolk, Neb.

Taking part in a panel discussion at the Johnny Carson Theatre on Saturday, June 18, will be Josh Lieb, producer and showrunner of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”; Dave Berg, a past co-producer of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and Jeff Sotzing, president of Carson Entertainment and a producer of “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”

“ ‘The Tonight Show’ has been and continues to be such a huge part of the entertainment landscape. To bring producers from three different eras of the show together on one stage promises to be a memorable event,” said Kent Warneke, founder and past chairman of the Great American Comedy Festival, an annual summer event since 2008 in Carson’s hometown.

The 90-minute discussion will allow the three producers to share stories and anecdotes, show video clips, answer audience member questions and more. The event is set for 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 18, and is free to the public.

“We don’t believe anything like this has ever taken place before, so we want as many people as possible to take in and enjoy this historic presentation,” Warneke said.

About the panel presentation’s featured guests:


Josh Lieb

 Josh Lieb serves as the producer and showrunner of “The Tonight Show Jimmy Fallon.” He won seven Emmy Awards as writer and producer of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and has written and produced multiple other television shows, including “The Simpsons” and “NewsRadio.” A graduate of Harvard University, he also is a New York Times best-selling author. In 2013, he wrote and directed a series of comedic shorts to raise money and awareness for the charity Water.Org. Stars featured in the shorts included Matt Damon, Jessica Biel, Sir Richard Branson, and Bono. He is the grandson of the late Charlie and Lil Lieb, of Omaha.


Jeff Sotzing Jeff Sotzing was studying videotape editing at Pasadena City College, when his uncle, Johnny Carson, invited him to join the staff of “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.” He worked his way up to production assistant, then associate producer and, ultimately, as producer until the final show with Carson was broadcast May 22, 1992. Sotzing now serves as president of Carson Entertainment and also sits as an adviser to the John W. Carson Foundation, a nonprofit trust that provides funding to hundreds of organizations.


Dave Berg Dave Berg, who now is a writer and columnist for The Orange County Register, was a co-producer for “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and “The Jay Leno Show,” where he also appeared in numerous comedy sketches. He has written a book, called Behind the Curtain: An Insider’s View of Jay Leno’s Tonight Show. Prior to his work with Leno, Berg was a producer for “The O’Reilly Factor,” a writer for NBC News and the Los Angeles bureau chief for CNBC.

The Great American Comedy Festival debuted in Norfolk in 2008 as a way to pay tribute to Carson’s legacy. It has since become one of the nation’s leading comedy festival, attracting headlining performers like Brian Regan, Drew Carey, Robert Klein, Paula Poundstone and Louie Anderson.

The festival also annually presents the Johnny Carson Comedy Legend award. Past recipients have included David Steinberg, Dick Cavett, Stephen Wright, Cloris Leachman, Ed Asner and Kevin Pollak.

In continuing Carson’s tradition of giving up-and-coming stand-up comics a chance to shine, the festival also features 20 comedians on the cusp of stardom who audition for the chance to participate in the festival before Eddie Brill, the festival’s artistic director and former warm-up comic for David Letterman.

The festival also features a family magic show, reflecting Carson’s lifelong interest in magic.