In 2017, Ed McMahon bringing a huge check to winner of the Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes is just a figment of our collective imagination. In this timeline, it's just a myth that he worked for PCH and he really worked for a rival company called American Family Publishers. In an article from Forbes, they claim that he never even held a giant check!
"Ed McMahon never worked for Publishers Clearing House. He was a spokesman for American Family Publishers. McMahon never left the studio to ambush families, and he never held a giant check."
Ed, himself, even raps about bringing the big check:
The Twilight Zone is real, Folks!
American Family Publishers is no longer in business. Suspiciously, in a video by Always Thinking, the Wikipedia page for AFP states that was incorporated in 1996, long after we first remember Ed bringing those checks.
The current Wikipedia page as of 8-6-17 states that AFP was founded in 1977. Which is it?
Besides our own memories, there is no shortage of cultural references to Ed McMahon and PCH.
During financial troubles, Ed McMahon even entered the PCH sweepstakes himself! There was controversy over his eligibility since he had been the spokesperson. I pasted this article from The Inept Owl just in case it mysteriously vanishes from the internet:
McMahon Enters Sweepstakes
Beverly Hills, CA: In lieu of recently public financial troubles, Ed McMahon had recently entered the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes, of which he is the celebrity spokesman for, with a response of awkwardness and anger from his adoring public.
Most noted as Johnny Carson’s right-hand man and “human laugh track” on The Tonight Show, 85 year old McMahon “Hiyooooo!”-ed himself by defaulting on his mortgage, and has been trying to sell his Beverly Hills estate ever since.
Add to that the severe neck injury McMahon suffered in 2007 and over half a million dollars in credit card debt to American Express®, and it is plain to see the predicament Ed McMahon is facing. It is only fitting that he would try to scrounge up any funds available, such as playing the lottery and trying to be the lucky winner of the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes.
However, this idea is not without its own problems. “I’m not sure the exact clauses we had written into Ed’s contract, but I would think that we would have somehow blocked him from winning the contest he is paid to advertise. It’s just bad business ethics to award him the SuperPrize, if he was indeed selected,” explained marketing director Chad Kramer. “Besides, what’s he going to do, show up at his own house with that big check and pretend to hand it to himself? What the hell kind of photo-op is that!?”
Most companies have strict guidelines to the eligibility of their employees and their family in company-sponsored contests, however in Ed McMahon’s case, he is not technically an employee, but a celebrity spokesperson who makes a stipend for his appearances on TV, radio, and when handing a check the size of a Buick to the lucky winner of the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes. He has no real clout within the corporation that runs the contest.
“Honestly, Ed was so rich at the time, the last thing we thought was, ‘Woah, better make sure he knows he can’t win this thing himself.’ The man was wiping his ass with a fistful of $100 dollar bills every day. It seemed unreal he would try to win a measely $1 million himself,” Mr. Kramer noted.
Other celebrities, facing dire financial situations themselves due to recent national economic troubles, have followed McMahon’s lead. Veteran football quarterback Vinny Testaverde recently applied to the Athletes For Hope Foundation in the hopes of landing another starting position in the NFL and paying off his mortgage for the year. Child-star from the 80’s Corey Haim, upon learning of the pittance he would receive for his reality show alongside Corey Feldman, was allegedly seen grabbing dropped change meant for a United Way donation bucket in Hollywood. Documentary director Michael Moore was even seen recently in New York City, dressed in a rumpled suit and knit cap, shoving a poverty-stricken woman out of a soup kitchen line.
After McMahon's death in 2009, CNN even stated in the video below AT 1:34 that he was the spokesperson for PCH.
There are so many articles referencing this.