Tom Daley
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Mario Cantone Says He Was Kicked Off Johnny Carson for Being Gay

Mario Cantone

Out comic and star of And Just Like That Mario Cantone recently opened up about an incident in 1986 in which alleges he was kicked off The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson for being too gay. The revelation came during Cantone’s recent appearance on Allison Kugel’s podcast, Allison Interviews.

Cantone shared that he’d been booked by Carson’s talent coordinator for the show, who was initially happy with his set. “When he saw me, he said, ‘Oh, my God, you’re amazing! We are going to shape six minutes for you.’ Then he looked at the video again, because he filmed it that night, and he said, ‘You know what? Your comedy has a gay edge to it, and I think it’s going to make Johnny nervous, so I’m going to cancel you,’” Cantone recalled.

During the podcast, Cantone also addressed the recent loss of his And Just Like That costar, friend, and on-screen husband Willie Garson, who passed away last summer from pancreatic cancer. Cantone shared that he hadn’t learned of Garson’s diagnosis until they were already filming. “I didn’t know he was sick until a month in when he told me and told everyone. Sarah [Jessica Parker] said that she knew and she kept it kind of under wraps, but he told me like a month in,” he said. “[Garson] was great until he just wasn’t there anymore, until he just couldn’t come in, but you would never have known. His energy, his stories; he was hilarious and brilliant.”

Cantone also opened up about what was planned for their storyline, particularly the dynamic of their marriage. “Unfortunately, the audience never got to see what our marriage was going to be, which was going to be very interesting and funny,” he said. “It was basically two people that argue, fight, and have a very turbulent relationship, yet they can’t live without each other.” 

Willie Garson and Mario Cantone in 'And Just Like That'
While Cantone is proud to have been part of gay history on TV along with Garson, he also stressed how far the culture and the industry have to go in terms of out stars. For one, he said he’d prefer that gay roles be filled with gay actors — but acknowledged that this might not be a realistic ask in today’s Hollywood. “If I had the choice, I would like a gay man to play a gay man. But I’m not going to shut the movie down if they don’t do that. If it’s an independent film or a television show, I think a gay person could play a gay person,” Cantone said. “I think a trans person should play a trans person. I think all of that.”

“But if it’s a major motion picture from Warner Bros. or 20th Century Fox, you’re not going to get that movie done unless you have a movie star. It has always been that way,” Cantone continued, pointing to Brokeback Mountain as a prime example of a film that wouldn’t have made it to screen were it not for having big names like Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as its leads. He added that an “openly gay movie star ... doesn’t exist.”

For his part, Cantone isn’t especially hopeful that things will change on this front anytime soon. “That’s never going to change; not in my lifetime. There are no openly gay LGBTQ+ movie stars, leading men, or leading ladies,” he concluded.

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