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Comedy’s Cultural Correctness

The next chapter against “PC” is being written and acted out.

Hopefully, more people will speak out so life will resume to being funny when things are funny.

Today, in its most recent form, PC (political correctness) has been taken to new levels of absurdness by the college generation of sensitive ears and paper-thin sensibilities. It’s ridiculous. We can’t say anything about anything or anybody. It’s that bad. Most of the time, it’s just jokes. Fortunately, Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, Colin Quinn, Amy Schumer and others have taken a stand recently to remind this delusional generation that we are allowed to say what’s on our mind and to do so is quite normal.

In America, there’s this notion of free speech. It’s incredibly valuable in our society, as well as in our continuous development as human beings.

“Dissent is the highest form of patriotism”
–Unknown (Possibly said by Thomas Jefferson)

Whether you like him or not, that’s the fundamental appeal of Donald Trump. Regardless of what he’s saying, people are attracted to his rebellious attitude against scripted, bland, focus group-approved opinions and reactions.

As comedian Bill Burr pointed out last week on Conan, we can’t even be mildly observant anymore.

If only George Carlin was alive to tackle this resurgent cultural problem.

He’d certainly have more than 7-words to say to today’s PC Police…

A Punchline Without the Punch?

Indiana v. Massachusetts

The Tonight Show v. The Late Show

Stand-Up v. Stand-Up:

Jay Leno and David Letterman are recognized as kings of late night television.

Leno has always been more popular than Letterman (for comedic and personality reasons), yet both stand on the steps below Johnny Carson. Each stand-up comic has a strong following in America. Most people have a favorite between the two legends, but they can see a few positive traits in their “rival.” The story of Leno and Letterman growing up together in the same comedic circle is a surreal reality to say the least. Jerry Seinfeld and Robin Williams were a couple people in this group of up-and-comers in Los Angeles, which is just all kinds of epic. Of all their differences and bitter history though, these late night comics helped define a golden generation of comedy.

In a Hollywood Reporter story just released, Letterman revealed an unknown offer as Leno was wrapping his stellar run as host of The Tonight Show.

“Jay asked me to be on when he was finishing his show, and I said, ‘That’s a lovely offer, but I think it should really be more about just Jay on his final week of shows.’ So I declined,” said the Late Show¬†host. “I think he may feel the same way about this situation.”

A surprise Leno appearance on the final episode of the retiring David Letterman on The Late Show would be a ratings smash. However, more importantly, a televised reunion would be a crazy final chapter decades in the making. While a non-reunion may be the reality, one final sit down would be closure the nation has been waiting for.

We’ll literally have to wait and see if it happens, like a certain Super Bowl party.

What’s really entertaining about their rivalry is that mutual friend Jerry Seinfeld shows that they’re actually quite similar and seem to speak about each other rather fondly in conversation before they “made it.” Supposedly, they resolved enough of their issues during the past few years to be friendly. Here’s some proof.

Whether or not Leno and Letterman sit down one final time on network television by May 20th, it’s nice to know that they respect each other enough to let the other person shine when the spotlight is on him.

And that’s what friendship is about, isn’t it?

P.S. Zinging your buddy with hilarious punchlines on national television is also what being friends is about, so…either way!

Jim, Jimmy, James

Could Carnac the Magnificent have predicted this kind of Monday-through-Friday late night culture?

Johnny Carson is the standard-bearer and the decades that have followed his retirement from The Tonight Show have revealed an incredible public demand for stand-up comics who have the artful skill of conversing with celebrities, athletes and wild animal wranglers in ways that makes for entertaining television. We watch in delight at how today’s leading comics interpret the day’s news, get the exclusive Hollywood scoop, as well as humorously engage in trending activities. After Craig Ferguson’s departure from CBS’s The Late Late Show, the network had some work to do. Competition is fierce from NBC and ABC. This choice was critically important. At least you know they’d never leave something like this up to chance…

Actually, the real Golden Ticket in late night television is being named Jimmy or James (Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, James Corden and James “Jay” Leno).

I better start working on my jokes and interviewing skills…

The New Old Tonight Show

First impression?

Jimmy Fallon is not Jay Leno.

That can mean several things, both positive and negative, but it’s the truth nonetheless. It’s unequivocally a new era in the long, esteemed (though recently fumbled) history of The Tonight Show. In an opening few minutes that appeared sincerely surreal to the newly crowned 39-year old prince of late night television, Jimmy Fallon expressed his gratitude and excitement for the tremendous (sorry, wrong host and network) treasured opportunity of receiving the baton of the show in late night.

The Tonight Show is back in New York City as The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

He thanked his parents who were in the audience (a great moment!) and recapped how, in his younger days, he would sneak off to watch Johnny Carson’s monologue, first guest and so on. He then recalled how if somebody had told him that one day he would graduate high school, join SNL and then become host of The Tonight Show, he would have been shocked…he graduated high school!?

It will be that kind of humbleness (and more smiling!) that will help guide Jimmy Fallon in the early stages of his tenure as the host before he fully dives into the treacherous waters of late night comedy with its natural and inevitable rivalries and cross-networking jabbing.

The show’s opening sequence was directed by Spike Lee (how’s that for a New York introduction) with musical support by his trusty house band: The Roots. The set has a classic, old-school New York theater/lounge aesthetic with a Carson-inspired floor to ceiling curtain with a heavy focus on wood…lots of wood. Visually, it looks like a bit of an homage to the past, perhaps trying to channel respect for what this move represents for the show and the city of New York.

Jimmy Fallon seemed right at home last night (well, this morning) by engaging in a history of hip-hop dancing with his first Tonight Show guest Will Smith. The clothes, the moves and the comedic chemistry between the two were pitch perfect. Then, U2 rocked the top of 30 Rockefeller Center with an electric performance of their new hit single from their Super Bowl commercial, “Invisible.”

U2 + the top of New York City for the opening night = a magnificent beginning!

The night was also filled with several of Jimmy’s friends who humorously lost a bet that he’d become the host one day. One after the other, Robert De Niro, Tina Fey, Seth Rogen, Lady Gaga, a former NYC mayor, Joan Rivers, coin prankster Stephen Colbert and many more stepped out from behind the curtain to give Jimmy Fallon a funny anti-welcome that was constantly surprising and ultimately entertaining.

Plus, an acoustic U2 performance on the new couch to close the show isn’t bad either.

Where does Jimmy Fallon and The Tonight Show stand at this point?

It’s far too early to tell or to judge. First, some reaction needs to be reserved until the show premieres at its quintessential time slot of 11:35 p.m. Then, we need to witness the comedic and creative energy and endurance of a 10-minute monologue five days a week…every week.

The monologue was key to Jay’s success as it was his winning first impression night in and night out for 20+ years.¬† Let’s not forget about his comedic bits and engaging interview skills as well.

“What the hell were you thinking?”

But that was Jay. He’s America’s stand-up comic. And, as the recent 60 Minutes story revealed, Jay and his writing team worked relentlessly to fine-tune each joke and each monologue, night and day, night and day.

But alas, Jimmy Fallon is more comfortable as a masterful impressionist, singer and sketch artist (more like Johnny than Jay). His show will be the same in many ways, but also different in many ways. Emphasis on certain aspects will vary as his style will define his Tonight Show legacy. As I wrote in a previous article about Jay Leno, the move to Jimmy Fallon symbolizes a generational shift in comedy, style and personalities, and not just in late night.

This will not be the only article about Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show, but instead (like last night) just the first.

Millions of Americans laughed with Jay Leno for 22 years…will these same people see Jimmy Fallon as a rising star to watch for some good laughs five nights a week?

The dynamic of returning (fans, city, style) certainly is the question for the host.

P.S. Congratulations to the real new King of Late Night: Lorne Michaels.

Only one more night left…