Blog Archives

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!


Jay Leno Was #1 in More Than Just Ratings

Somewhere between 44,000 and 60,000 jokes were told with great, widespread applause (millions of people each night) throughout the course of 22 years as Jay Leno not only took on the nearly impossible task of replacing Johnny Carson, but he entered and left the coveted Tonight Show stage #1 in the ratings. That is not an impressive feat…that is a damn impressive feat! It’s borderline surreal when his daily presence, changing dynamics of television and comedy, plus the vastly increased competition are considered from when he began in 1992 and signed-off in 2014.

In replacing an icon he became one.

Jay’s final monologue included some flashbacks to his favorite and most memorable comedic targets, like NBC, O.J. Simpson and, yes, a very clever Hugh Grant jab!

Last night, the show’s staff and longtime friend Billy Crystal had a circus of surprises ready for The Tonight Show host and dear friend Jay. If you saw the show, it was magnificent. A long list of Jay’s good friends offered him their advice as what to do next. This ranged from starring in a new Tyler Perry Madea movie to him finally %*!@$ inviting Matt Damon to his garage to Bill Maher welcoming Jay back to The Tonight Show for a third term. But the best advice may have come from Charlie Sheen who essentially told him to spend his saved Tonight Show money and buy NBC and then fire everybody!

All of which was done with great fun and laughter.

Jay’s first guest, Billy Crystal, was funny, smart and generous. He started by ordering the Burbank Moving Company around the stage to claim some necessary keepsakes for the road. This led him into his own monologue of sorts about his comedic colleague and friend of 40 some odd years that was sprinkled with Crystal’s own brand of pure class and humor.

This post will not recap the entire show, but there were humorous stories from “back in the day” between Jay and Billy Crystal, a Von Trapp-inspired tribute song, a Garth Brooks who sang for the heart and the party and a final heartfelt and tearful goodbye from the man himself. Jay’s speech at the end of the show was not only really emotional and tearful, but also deeply revealing to the casual viewer. He disclosed the fact that his mom died his first year as The Tonight Show host, his dad died during his second year and his brother died soon thereafter. He was, for lack of a more delicate way to say it, out of family. His writers, producers and everybody on his Tonight Show staff at NBC was his family.

And you’re always loyal and protective of your family.

Despite obvious and warranted friction with his NBC superiors, Jay made it clear that he was invested in more than just a job at NBC. It was something special for him, his staff and everybody who tuned in during the past 22 years.

What does Jay’s exit signify as for the future of The Tonight Show and late night comedy itself? A lot. In fact, it’s a seismic shift. Last night was not just Jay’ final bow to his loyal and always entertained audience, but also a generational goodbye, which is why his departure off the 11:35 p.m. time slot is proving to be such a difficult farewell. Jay is an old school stand-up comedian. There’s no political agenda or mean spirited attacks. He’s just funny. All he needs is a stage. And it’s truly sad he won’t have that anymore to make America laugh at the same time every weeknight after a long, stressful day.

His sense of humor and jokes are timeless.

We’ll especially miss Monday’s unbelievably printed Headlines, the hilariously unpredictable Jaywalking, those savvy gifts from The 99¢ Store and the surprising visits to Oakwood Apartments.

Throughout the post, I’ve almost exclusively written Jay and not his full name Jay Leno. There’s a reason. For most celebrities or personalities, we know them by their full name. But for the rare few where only a first name is the natural reaction to call someone, it usually means that we consider them as an extended member of our family. Whether it’s through music or a talk show, some entertainment personalities feel like that funny or inspiring uncle, aunt, brother or sister to us.

Jay was not just the #1 rated late night host…Jay was America’s stand-up comedian for more than two decades. As Jay alluded to last night, it felt a little like a high school graduation, except that everybody was held back for 22 years! But he’s right. We’ll still see him, whether it’s on the road, online in his iconic garage working on some steam-powered relic or on a television special, but it won’t ever be the same.

It’s the end of an era in too many sad ways to contemplate right now.

Jay ended his tenure as host of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno with a shout-out to his wife Mavis, “I’m coming home honey.”

Jay, for 22 years, thanks for coming into our homes and making us laugh.