Johnny Carson Interviews Ayn Rand

The Ayn Rand Institute recently posted Johnny Carson’s 26-minute interview of Ayn Rand, aired in August 1967. This was his first of 3 interviews with her.

I recommend the whole thing, whether or not you like or agree with Ayn Rand. Although she was hugely important in my intellectual development and there’s a substantial probability that I would be neither an economist nor an American if I hadn’t read her when I was 16 and almost 17, there are things I like her about her philosophy and things I dislike.

The timing of this interview is interesting to me personally. In August 1967, I was running the dishwashing machine at the Minaki Lodge and I quit around the end of the month to move into our apartment we rented in Winnipeg. I started at the University of Winnipeg in around the middle of September. When I expressed to a friend of my brother’s how bored I was in college (except for Calculus) in about late October, he said he had a book I might like. He lent it to me. It was The Fountainhead.

What stands out is how seriously Johnny Carson took her. He asks good questions. In more modern times, I could imagine Brian Lamb of C-SPAN being as good or better if he had had the chance. Is there anyone else?

A few highlights follow.

13:30: The fly buzzing around. Notice Ayn Rand’s comment.

15:44: This is the first time some in the audience applaud. Notice the statements of hers that they are applauding.

18:25: Notice her opposition to the Vietnam War and her relatively narrow reasons for opposing it. I now think that I must have been one of the “beatniks” whom she criticized.

24:20: Notice who got bumped because Carson found Rand so interesting.

HT2 Alex Tabarrok.