This is a great quote which sums it up:
With Carson’s passing, an entire generation of young adults have suddenly become Old. There’s an entire generation behind us that never saw “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.” We will try — with embarrassing and dithering enthusiasm — to explain to them what it was like and we’ll fail. Completely. No doubt part of that’s because our childhoods are so deeply infused with memories of Carson and his show. The first time my parents and I were in the same room laughing at the same thing, we were watching The Tonight Show. That’s some powerful mojo, and it’s a memory shared by nearly everybody born before 1980.
This is quoted from Andy Ihnatko.
I remember many a night that I would sneak out of my room to the top of the basement stairs where I could manage to peak through the door to watch Carson well past my bedtime.