2012-01-Pic-4-Great-QuestionsThis might be an apocryphal story. Despite my best efforts to confirm that the following actually happened, I couldn’t. But if it didn’t happen, it should have.

The story goes that many years ago, the late Johnny Carson (the host of The Tonight Show before Leno, before Conan, before Leno) was interviewing a guest who was billed as the world’s greatest salesman. (Guinness World Records acknowledges that the title truly belongs to Joe Girard; some accounts of The Tonight Show incident suggest that the guest in question was the late Og Mandino, who wrote the bestselling book The Greatest Salesman in the World.)

When your guest is touting himself as the greatest salesperson ever, you have to take that opportunity to have some fun. Carson reportedly said something along the lines of: “So, you’re the greatest salesman in the world? Sell me something.”

“What do you want me to sell?” the guest asked.

Looking about and laying eyes on his ashtray, Carson said, “How about this astray?”

“What do you like about the ashtray?” inquired the guest.

Carson mentioned its unusual shape and interesting color, and how it coordinated with other items on his desk.

Without missing a beat, the guest then asked, “Well, how much would you be willing to spend on an ashtray of this shape and color, and one that coordinated so well with your décor?”

“Maybe $10,” the host replied.

“Sold,” smiled the salesperson.