“What Made You a Star?” “I Started Out in a Gaseous State, and Then I Cooled”

Johnny Carson? Kenneth Tynan? David Letterman? Ed McMahon?

Dear Quote Investigator: A prominent show business personality was once asked how he or she became a star. The reply was a very funny absurdist remark about astrophysical star formation. Do you know who made this response?

Quote Investigator: In 1968 English theatre critic Kenneth Tynan wrote about U.S. television host Johnny Carson in the pages of “The Observer” of London. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

This complicated man has total aplomb. He was once asked, not without aggression: “What made you a star?” Blandly, he replied, “I started out in a gaseous state, and then I cooled.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading “What Made You a Star?” “I Started Out in a Gaseous State, and Then I Cooled”


  1. 1968 May 26, The Observer, Shouts and Murmurs by Kenneth Tynan, Quote Page 30, Column 3, London, Greater London, England. (Newspapers_com)

Never Continue in a Job You Don’t Enjoy

Johnny Carson? Kenneth Tynan? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The late-night talk-show host Johnny Carson was one of the most successful entertainers in U.S. history. He spent thirty years as the star of “The Tonight Show” on the NBC television network. Before he embraced the celebrated nocturnal hosting duties he held nine different jobs. That fact might help to explain the following guidance attributed to him:

Never continue in a job you don’t enjoy.

His widely-distributed career advice quotation includes the above remark together with comments about inner peace and physical health. Would you kindly help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: Johnny Carson attended high school in Norfolk, Nebraska, and a few decades later he was pleased to receive an invitation to deliver the 1976 commencement address. His speech was described by drama critic Kenneth Tynan who wrote a lengthy profile of Carson in “The New Yorker” in 1978. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Having picked a profession, feel no compulsion to stick to it: “If you don’t like it, stop doing it. Never continue in a job you don’t enjoy.”

After Carson’s prepared remarks he engaged in a question-and-answer session. He also highlighted the pride engendered by the opportunity to talk at his former school:

The applause at the end was so clamorous that Carson felt compelled to improvise a postscript. “If you’re happy in what you’re doing, you’ll like yourself,” he said. “And if you like yourself, you’ll have inner peace. And if you have that, along with physical health, you will have had more success than you could possibly have imagined. I thank you all very much.”

Over the years the passages above have been combined and streamlined to generate a popular quotation.

Continue reading Never Continue in a Job You Don’t Enjoy


  1. 1978 February 20, The New Yorker, Profiles: Fifteen Years of the Salto Mortale by Kenneth Tynan, Start Page 47, Quote Page 85, Published by The New Yorker Magazine, Inc., New York. (Accessed Online Archive of Page Scans at archives.newyorker.com on November 4, 2017) link