Trivia

Hard

Johnny Carson Once Made A Joke On The Tonight Show That Led To A Shortage Of?

Coca-Cola
Birth Control
Toilet Paper
Light Bulbs
Two loose rolls of plain white toilet paper.
Batholith/Wikimedia

Answer: Toilet Paper

In 1973, a peculiar set of circumstances led to a nationwide shortage of toilet paper in the United States that lasted for weeks and even caused toilet paper companies and stores to ration their reserves. Was it related to an energy crisis, a blight destroying America’s forest lands and paper industry, or even war rationing? It was none of the above that drove the shortage, but a comedy of errors topped off by a joke made by a legitimate comedian instead.

In early December of that year, a Wisconsin congressman, Harold V. Froehlich, released a press statement talking about paper pulp shortages (a problem brought to his attention by his constituents). Although the shortage was not an immediate threat to the toilet paper industry, Froehlich mentioned in the press release, perhaps in a bid to get people outside the paper industry to care about the matter, that America might be facing a toilet paper shortage if the lack of adequate paper pulp supplies wasn’t taken care of.

The Tonight Show staff saw the press release and the specter of a toilet paper shortage was incorporated into a brief Tonight Show joke. A few days after the press release, Carson quipped, “You know, we’ve got all sorts of shortages these days. But have you heard the latest? I’m not kidding. I saw it in the paper. There’s a shortage of toilet paper.”

Given the national climate at the time and the real shortages that many consumers faced, the joke wasn’t received as such, but was instead taken quite literally at face value. Consumers panicked and there was a national run on toilet paper. In the coming days, worried consumers cleared the shelves of stores coast-to-coast so rapidly that they outpaced toilet paper production schedules and the companies themselves were left rationing their stock.

A few weeks after the joke had gotten out of hand, Carson apologized on air for the panic the quip had caused and, since then, the incident has been used to demonstrate how quickly a rumor can start and escalate out of control.

Trivia

Hard

Parasitic Infections Compel Infected Grasshoppers To What?

Trivia

Hard

The Country With The Most World Heritage Sites Is?

Trivia

Very Hard

Scientists Have Developed An Electrical Wand To Help Fight What?

Trivia

Hard

What Was The First SPAM Email About?

Trivia

Hard

The Maillard Reaction Is Responsible For The Flavors Found In Items Such As?

Trivia

Easy

Which Of These Rock Bands Is Named After An English Agriculturalist?

Trivia

Hard

British Intelligence Agency MI6 Hacked A Terrorist Organization’s Website And Replaced Bomb Recipes With?

Trivia

Hard

Which Letter Does Not Appear On The Periodic Table?

Y X
J Q

Trivia

Hard

There Was Once A TV Crossover Between Star Trek: Voyager And?

Trivia

Very Hard

For Centuries Wine Was Flavored With What Toxic Compound?