Johnny Carson caused a toilet paper shortage with a rather simple, off the cuff comment. Sure, it was meant to be nothing more than part of his comedy routine, but the results caused nation wide havoc. In short, the results could have stunk.
Not so long ago, the words of television hosts carried a lot of weight. The celebrities, with the utterance of only a few words, could spell the success or failure of an item, or in the worst situations, pandemonium. That’s precisely what happened in December 1973 when Johnny Carson unwittingly caused a toilet paper shortage.
How did Johnny Carson cause a Toilet paper shortage?
When Carson went on his show in December 1973 he uttered a throw away line. Surely not meant to be taken seriously, but it was.
You know what’s disappearing from the supermarket shelves? Toilet paper? There’s an acute shortage of toilet paper in the United States.
~ Johnny Carson, December 1973
It was a joke right? Well people can be intensely naive and will believe just about anything, as was previously shown by people who thought Gilligan’s Island were real castaways and demanded the coast guard rescue them. For a second time at least, people thought comedy was a real event.
Almost immediately people began rushing to supermarkets and convenience stores to buy toilet paper. While it was unknown to him at the time, Johnny Carson had just created a toilet paper shortage, and it was nation wide.
In January 1974 he went back on air and apologized for the mayhem, explaining it was only a joke. But the damage had been done. Shelves remained almost completely empty for over three weeks, and stores had to ration supplies until levels could be built back up to normal levels once again.
Oh Johnny, you were one of a kind, and we will never have another like you again.