'Here's Johnny!:' The 'Shining' Line That Younger People Might Not Get

By | October 15, 2019

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Jack Nicholson really knows how to make an entrance in 'The Shining.' Source: (IMDB.com)

Of all the stolen movie lines, "Here's Johnny!" might be the best.

It happens in The Shining, starring Jack Nicholson and directed by Stanley Kubrick, which isn’t just a horror classic -- the 1980 psycho-chiller is a staple of modern cinema. The film has been combed over and debated for decades, but the scene that’s endlessly quoted is when Jack Torrance (Nicholson) busts through a bathroom door with an ax and shouts, “Here’s Johnny!” No matter how many times you’ve seen the movie, this intense scene will still get your heart racing.

Here’s the thing about this scene: as scary as it is, to this day, younger viewers might not realize that Nicholson is actually referencing Ed McMahon and The Tonight Show. Let that sink in while we explore the bathroom at the Overlook Hotel. 

Jack Nicholson Does A Great Ed McMahon Impression

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Jack Nicholson walking through snowy maze in lobby card for the film 'The Shining', 1980. Source: (Photo by Warner Brothers/Getty Images)

By 1980 it was a well-known fact that before Johnny Carson stepped out from between those curtains at the beginning of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson he’d be introduced by his second banana Ed McMahon. Ed had been making the announcement since 1962, so the quote was basically a piece of Americana at the time. Carson must have loved the scene because of the full, terrifying scenario to open his 1980 anniversary special. Whatever’s going on in that scene, both behind the camera and on film, has a certain kind of magic that connects with viewers regardless of whether they’re familiar with the reference or the source material.