Jerry Seinfeld’s Unfrosted Features a Deepfake Johnny Carson

Johnny Carson has arrived on Netflix. Or rather, a deepfake version of him has.

A scene in Jerry Seinfeld’s new movie for the streamer features the comic in a scene with Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon on a 1960s-era episode of The Tonight Show

Unfrosted, which is Seinfeld’s directorial debut, follows the (highly fictionalized) creation of the Pop-Tart in the 1960s.

The scene in question features Seinfeld’s character, fictional Pop-Tarts mastermind Bob Cabana, appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1963. Since Carson passed away in 2005, creating the scene meant deepfaking Carson’s face while an actor delivered the lines in Carson’s voice. That role went to comedian Kyle Dunnigan.

In an interview with Comicbook.com, Unfrosted co-writer and producer (and former FOX late-night host) Spike Feresten revealed that Dunnigan insisted on finding new angles into a Carson impression. “I remember [Dunnigan] going, ‘I don’t want to do anything that Carvey did, or anybody else on SNL doing this part,’” Feresten said.

The part of Ed McMahon was voiced by SNL alum/announcer Darrell Hammond.

Seinfeld recalled shooting the scene in an interview with Vanity Fair. “We did the CGI face replacement thing. It’s pretty flawless,” Seinfeld says. “The hardest part was getting the hair right. The set is an exact duplicate of his old set, which we took from old video, and obviously the face is his face.”

Dunnigan also plays Walter Cronkite in the film—in an actual, in-person performance. In his conversation with Comicbook.com, Feresten shared the thinking that went into deciding which historical figures would be digitally recreated in the film.

“The real kind of quandary we had was, do we deepfake every person who’s in the movie that’s from the old times—Forrest Gump in tone,” Feresten explained. “Or do we cast those parts with people and make them funny? When we started doing deepfake tests, we started to learn that the character became less funny. There was something about the AI, the visual effect, that took [away] our comedic actors’ ability to make the lines funny.”

Feresten was happier with the results they got deepfaking Carson. “That effect, for some reason, that face replacement worked,” he explained. “And I think it was because we did a standard-definition effect on it, instead of a 4K effect on it, so it looked like it was being broadcast in ’63.”

Back in 1963, Carson’s tenure on Tonight was barely a year old. He took over in October 1962, and led the program until his retirement in May 1992. 

Of course Jerry Seinfeld is no stranger to Carson’s Tonight Show in real life. He first appeared on the show on May 6, 1981, and went on to make upwards of 20 appearances on Carson-hosted Tonight Show—and even more on Carson-era episodes guest-hosted by Joan Rivers and Jay Leno.

But being able to insert himself into the earliest years of Carson’s show was a particularly poignant moment for Seinfeld. “For me, obviously, [the scene] was a dream come true,” he told Vanity Fair. “That’s [the era] when I was first watching comedians and falling in love with them.”

Unfrosted, featuring deepfake Johnny Carson and an original song by the present-day Tonight Show host is now streaming on Netflix.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.