In 1973, Johnny Carson was the undisputed King Of Late Night. After the evening news, most people watched Carson chat with a comedian like Don Rickles or Rich Little before enjoying their last cigarette and scotch of the day and calling it a night. So even though this is a little-known slice of 1970s history, it’s not too surprising: With an offhand monologue remark, Johnny Carson kicked off a toilet paper shortage in 1973.
Carson was going off of a press release from a Republican senator that, in fact, warned of a possible upcoming shortage of pulp paper, which would affect toilet paper production. According to Snopes, Carson then used the info in his Tonight Show monologue, which often drew from the headlines of the day:
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 papers. There’s a shortage of toilet paper!
Based on Carson’s comments, consumers went out and bought toilet paper in bulk, resulting in toilet paper rationing. Headlines announced, “Grocery store shelves wiped clean,” so that Carson’s monologue became a self-fulfilling prophecy of an actual toilet paper shortage. Now, filmmaker Brian Gersten is hoping to make a short, animated version of the 1973 manufactured crisis called “The Great Toilet Paper Scare.” The Kickstarter page says the film “will explore the power and impact of media sensationalism, and how the consequences of such events have evolved since this brief period of paper-less panic.”
To help Gersten get his film off the ground, you can pledge at a variety of levels (single-ply, double-ply, etc.), and receive various bathroom-themed bonuses. They include a bidet attachment and a 24-pack of recycled toilet paper, should you wipe into a shortage of your own. Visit Gersten’s Kickstarter page to find out more.