With the Fourth of July kicking off the week, most late-night TV hosts in America decided to take the full week off. But not Jay Leno. Of course not. Self-described workaholic Leno is all-new this week with The Tonight Show, which meant he got to have yesterday's big Casey Anthony news pretty much to himself.
So what did Leno do? He compared the jury in her murder trial to Obama's economic team. Guess how well that went over. No, really. Guess.
Jerry Seinfeld stopped by The Tonight Show on Thursday night to perform stand-up comedy and do panel with Jay Leno. In his brief stand-up set, Seinfeld talks about the absurdity of caffeinated alcoholic beverages, the people who "work" in coffeeshops, and the ads for sleep medications. It's all connected.
Roll the clip!
Afterward, Seinfeld caught up with comedian Jimmy Brogan (who used to be the head monologue writer for the Tonight Show), and later also with Leno.
Among the things we learn in this clip: How playing to a Tonight Show audience is different from a club, and how it impacts the jokes and tags you use; that Brogan and Seinfeld both started at the Comic Strip Live in NYC in the mid-1970s; that Seinfeld's first Tonight Show performance was 30 years ago; that Leno borrowed that hideous green suit for his own first appearance for Johnny Carson in 1977; and that Leno unbuttons his shirts too far.
Jay Leno was a stand-up comedian long before he was whomever you think he is now, and he's still the workaholic he has been for decades.
In a new interview with City Pages in Minnesota's Twin Cities to promote an upcoming gig there, Leno reacted pretty fairly to recent allegations by Howard Stern that Leno had stolen joke ideas for The Tonight Show, among other things.
Here's an audio excerpt, on video. Roll it!
Or if you prefer reading Leno's response:
Well first of all, if you see, there's a special called Jay Leno American Dream Special I taped it in 1984, we did a segment called Jaywalking, where I go out and talk to people on the street.
First of all, I did not invent that. Steve Allen was probably the first person on TV to do it, but people in radio did it, the New York Post did the "man on the street" interview.
This is something that gets terribly overblown. I know a couple weeks ago Conan was accused of taking a piece from Kimmel; he didn't. It was Sarah Palin hunting, and they showed her aiming a gun, and I think every comic in America did Sarah Palin killing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. And the fact that two shows happened to have a similar idea, you don't have to see every show. it doesn't mean anyone necessarily stole it.
I've never had a reputation for taking other peoples material. But that's Howard's thing, if he can get any traction with it--good luck. Let me know if any other comics agree with him, and then we'll deal with it. But Howard is Howard, that's what he does, the idea is you try to pick a fight with somebody and then they fight with you back in the media. And I don't do that, I just ignore him, and it's fine, he can do whatever he wants.
Other things we learned in the interview about Jay Leno: He never spends the night on the road. That's right. He flies straight home after the gig, whether it's Vegas, Minneapolis or your town! "That's just how you stay married, okay? Welcome to show business. I haven't spent a night in Vegas in 25 years. I fly home every night and go to work every day." And he doesn't believe for a second that David Letterman was serious when he said on a recent show that he'd only stick around for a couple of years longer. Same goes for him. "You do it until you don't do it anymore, I guess."
Rose grilled him for much of the 40 minutes (link to video here), asking him again and again about how he failed with NBC Entertainment, and even though Zucker has described his decisions about Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien with Zucker before, they went through it all again. Why??? That's not me asking. That was Rose.
There's some initial discussion about the transition for Comcast to take over NBC Universal and the future of media, Zucker's start in news as a producer on Today, and then after some talk about the difference between being a news guy vs. an entertainment guy -- and whether New York City and Hollywood are on the same page, Rose gets back to Jay vs. Conan. From the transcript:
CHARLIE ROSE: Here is what is interesting about Bill Carter’s book, though, is that you had, speaking of gut, you had a feeling that it was not going to work at 11:30 for Conan according to Bill Carter and reflected that. And when you saw it on the air, it confirmed your feeling. And when you saw the bookings, it doubled your anxiety. JEFF ZUCKER: Look, look. CHARLIE ROSE: Look, what, is this what -- JEFF ZUCKER: You know, I think, I think that -- I think Conan is incredibly talented. I really do. I think that in the end everybody has probably ended up where they should be. It turns out Jay is a broader, delivers a broader audience, and I think Conan delivers a very targeted audience that wasn’t what we needed at 11:30 on NBC. CHARLIE ROSE: Looking at it now, you don’t think that Conan really was the right profile, forgetting Jay, for 11:30 on NBC. JEFF ZUCKER: I think it turns out he was more narrow than we needed. CHARLIE ROSE: Narrow in what means? JEFF ZUCKER: In terms of his appeal to a broader audience. CHARLIE ROSE: Narrow in what he did, the nature of his comedy? JEFF ZUCKER: All of the above, all of that. And look, he’s incredibly talented. And I think he’s actually reaching a perfect audience where he is. But at NBC at 11:30 you need to be, you need to reach more than just men 18 to 34. And you need to reach as many people as possible. And I think, you know, in hindsight that is something that we realized after the fact.
"So we're off that topic now?" Zucker joked a little while later.
Zucker later acknowledged that knowing Conan for 30 years -- going back to their days as fellow Harvard undergrads -- makes him regret that their friendship is not what it once was. Zucker also tells Rose that several years ago, he tried to lure Jon Stewart away from Comedy Central and strip his version of The Daily Show five nights a week at 8 p.m. (or even 7 p.m.)!
By the way, when you look away from the screen, a realization hits that Zucker sounds more than a little bit like Bob Costas. Wonder if he has ever done voiceover pretending to be Costas. Conspiracy theory?
When you have a very big, high-profile gig coming up, you want to practice your routines and hone them so they'll really pop when it's showtime. You'll likely want to show off your best new material, or the best of your old stuff. That's how most stand-up comedians prepare for a TV set.
Not Jay Leno. Leno famously still continues to perform stand-up in addition to his Tonight Show duties. So what to make of the news that Politico dug up -- apparently either a slow day in politics or because they're on Team Coco -- finding out that Leno barely brought anything new or special to the dais as the paid headliner for the White House Correspondents Dinner. Sure, Leno got upstaged by President Barack Obama, whom we learned hired writers from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to craft custom zingers for him. But to see that Leno didn't even put the same amount of professional delivery into his old Tonight Show monologue jokes the second time around? That's just embarrassing. But is it scandalous? Watching Leno look down and have such a difficult time reading jokes he already had delivered, it looks more pathetic than anything else. It's like he didn't even try. He had the president, the nation's press corps and A-list celebrities all with their eyes on him. And he just went through the motions. Sad. Roll the clip.
Remember a few years ago when Stephen Colbert took to the podium at the White House Correspondents Dinner and figuratively eviscerated both President George W. Bush and the media right to their faces with hard-hitting satire? Yeah, as if that's going to happen again any time soon. Which is what the Beltway crowd figured, overreacting the following year by booking old-timey impersonator Rich Little, then course correcting with new American immigrant Craig Ferguson and Wanda Sykes in subesequent years.
Well, they went back to the well last night booking Jay Leno, and even though it reportedly was Leno's fourth time performing at this dinner, it seemed as though he looked lost onstage, reading warily off his cards and getting few laughs. Kind of like his regular monologue! Leno did win a few points, though, with a line about the GOP partying at a lesbian bondage club, hating gay marriage but not minding watching them tie the knot. Maybe Leno should hire President Barack Obama's speechwriters, because he killed going first and even zinged Leno. Here are highlights from both men. First Obama:
Then came Leno (I watched the whole thing; you're better off with highlights, trust me!) "I'm not looking over. Is he laughing?" Not exactly, Jay. Roll it:
So Joy Behar was on The Tonight Show, Jay Leno edition, don't call it a comeback. But the real dishy dish happened backstage beforehand, as Behar and her HLN (that's KFC speak for Headline News) people filmed an impromptu chat with Leno. And he was quick to answer the inevitable Conan and Kimmel questions. Yes, Leno said NBC screwed Conan over. But he also claims he was screwed over, which is still slightly hard to swallow, but not as hard as the moment in which he says a comedian should never "impede on someone else's opportunity." Watch the whole thing, including some other filler with Behar, at your leisure.
On tonight's Late Show, Jimmy Kimmel sat down with David Letterman as they reminisced about roasting Jay Leno over the comedy coals. Just when you thought you had forgotten all about the "late night wars" of 2010...roll the clip!
When does this episode of Jaywalking air, again? A fan of Conan O'Brien meets Jay Leno, gets photo taken, has Coco FTW on his palm, posts to Facebook, gets picked up by TMZ. That pretty much sums it up.
In the second quarter of the Super Bowl, CBS broadcast an ad for its late-night chat show, Late Show with David Letterman. Letterman and Oprah had appeared together in a Super Bowl spot before, but this time, Jay Leno crashed the party. In his denim shirt. And allowed Letterman to impersonate him. In an ad for Letterman's show. Yes, that really did happen. Leno really must love knowing that NBC cannot fire him without paying him a gabillion dollars, because why else would he agree to this ad for his competition. Wow. Just wow. Watch it again right now!
UPDATED: The New York Times' Bill Carter, who is embedded in the late-night camps because he is writing a follow-up book to The Late Shift (how convenient), has Letterman's executive producer Rob Burnett dish with full details of how CBS asked Letterman to top his 2007 Super Bowl spot with Oprah, and how Leno got NBC's permission to fly to NYC on Tuesday (when the network pre-empted his show) and sneak in with Oprah during Letterman's live taping. Sounds like a win-win for both Leno and Letterman.
You don't have to be on Team Coco to realize that Leno-bashing has reached a hyperbolic pitch. Just pick up the current issue of Entertainment Weekly, which put a photo illustration of Jay Leno on its cover and named him TV's biggest bomb ever. Ever? Forever ever? Clearly the mag went with the chin to win in an effort to move print copies, because if you look at their top 50 TV bombs list, several of them stand out as much worse things to have appeared on America's television sets. It's not as if Leno is Hitler, as the Wall Street Journal's Joe Queenan suggested in a crass satire yesterday designed to generate page views. They're both wrong, of course, because Leno has never wanted anything more than to hold onto his 11:35 p.m. (10:35 p.m. Central/Mountain) time slot, and he'll be getting it back soon enough.
But how did it come to this, where conventional wisdom and anyone who's funny clearly aligned against Jay Leno? He cannot really be that bad, can he? And if he were, why do all of those people still show up at tapings of The Jay Leno Show and rush up to shake his hand at the start of every show? For the latter question, I think the answer is one part tourists on a Los Angeles vacation who are just happy to be up close and personal with a very famous person, and one part Leno providing the same below-the-belt jokes about sex and stereotypes that has earned Jeff Dunham millions of fans. Leno has said that in terms of personal appearances and stand-up gigs, he's doing better than ever. Before I digress even more, let's get back to Leno.
When I watched him sit down with Emily Blunt at the start of last week's run, Leno seemed to enjoy a natural and genuine conversation with the actress. For a moment, I almost did not want to shake my fists at him. What has become of me? How did it get to this? I used to like Jay Leno -- he was the first headlining stand-up comedian I remember seeing live, when he performed in a packed gymnasium at my college. My parents used to live in, and my mother still works in Andover, Mass., Leno's hometown. Where did my goodwill for him go?
Jay Leno brought this upon himself, I thought. No. I knew. He said that night that he still has no manager, no agent, no publicist, but he desperately needs someone to tell him that he has handled this latest round of NBC late-night disasters so so poorly. For one thing. For the main thing, really: Jay Leno has no idea what it means to be fired from a job. The last time I checked, getting fired means you no longer work for the company you're working for. When your bosses tell you they're replacing you, but before your contract is over, they give you a promotion, that's not being fired. When the people who control your pursestrings decide you're awful at your next job, and your bosses decide the best option is to give you your old job back, that's also not getting fired. It's like this guy has no self-awareness, or is so self-aware that he's playing a prank on himself. Which is another way of saying, he needs someone to tell him how much of an idiot he is.
I don't know how long I can keep up with this late-night TV bashing, but word on the TMZ street is it won't last much too much longer. Tonight, David Letterman exposed "Big Jaw" Jay Leno's so-called Middle America values, by reminding us how Leno's power-grab of The Tonight Show, Part 2: Electric Boogaloo, is a lot like that one time Middle America decided to become Middle America by killing all of the Native American tribes and stealing their land. Is this TV's version of Manifest Destiny? Roll the clip:
Related: TMZ posted this photo of workers taking down a Leno billboard on one of the NBC lots.
Another night, another round of jokes about NBC.
In his monologue tonight, Jay Leno ribbed NBC as "America's most dysfunctional TV family" and noted that while Conan O'Brien only got seven months to make his show work, Leno only got four months. "I'll take his agent!" Leno quipped. Roll the clip.
David Letterman, meanwhile, regaled his audience tonight with tales of back when he was on the Peacock Network. Remember how he used to poke fun at management often when he was in the Late Night slot? Well, he reminds us all about some of the "pinheads" and "nitwits" and "mouth-breathers" who tried to douse the fun, even when Letterman was trying to have a prime-time anniversary special and party. Letterman joked about visiting Jimmy Fallon last week, and thought more about Carson Daly, because Dave is looking out for the kids, right? In his mind, every kid who wants a show should be able to get a show, right? Roll it.
The people at CBS and Late Show at David Letterman know that after Monday's blistering take on NBC, they could have some more fun tonight. Except now that Conan O'Brien announced today that he would not move The Tonight Show to 12:05 a.m., the balls are in NBC's court, and tonight's Tonight Show will be one to watch (they're all ones to watch, BTW). So CBS has put up these two clips from tonight's Late Show. The first has Letterman giving NBC an idea on how to replace "Big Jaw" Jay Leno at 10 p.m. with another Law & Order...Leno Victims Unit.
When Letterman gets to the desk tonight, it sounds like he is rehashing his advice from last night, only with updated information about the ongoing battle at NBC to reply to Conan's announcement this afternoon. Also, as Letterman tells Carson Daly, the difference between having a TV show at 1:35 a.m. and not having a show, isn't that much of a difference. Roll it!
The Hollywood Reporter also has gotten hold of quips from Letterman's monologue. "I just knocked off another competitor!"
UPDATED: Here is Letterman's Tuesday monologue!
In part two of his monologue, Letterman also gets in a dig on Leno regarding Simon Cowell's decision to leave American Idol. Then it's back to Sarah Palin jokes.
Because David Letterman tapes his Friday shows early, he didn't have a chance to weigh in on NBC's late-night TV reshuffling -- or as Bill Carter of The New York Times thinks of it, his new book that'll someday make a miniseries sequel of The Late Shift -- until Monday. Don't worry. Letterman wasn't going to keep quiet. And he didn't. In fact, if he didn't already have guests lined up, you almost think he might have spent the full hour taking jabs at the Peacock Network and Jay Leno. From his opening line, when Letterman deadpanned that once again, he had been passed up for The Tonight Show, through the monologue, then to the desk for a full history lesson on NBC's late-night history, it seemed, to his advice suggesting that Jay and Conan share hosting duties so Jay can "tell his little jokes" and still have time to tinker on his old truck or whatever. And of course, Letterman's staff also put together a special Top 10 List There's Signs of Trouble at NBC.
You could tell that Letterman has fondness for Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Fallon, the two guys who have followed him on NBC's Late Night franchise at 12:30 a.m., but no such good will for Leno even after all these years. Here are three segments just from last night's Late Show with David Letterman. Roll 'em! First up, Letterman's monologue:
Letterman reminds us all what happened in previous years at NBC, and offers a couple of suggestions for what to do in 2010 and wicked impersonations of Leno as a guy who just wants to tell his little jokes and tinker on his old truck, or something:
And here's the Top Ten:
Letterman will continue to get great laughs out of this situation in the short-term. But what about the longer term? What will the late-night talk-show landscape look like for the NBC lineup after the Winter Olympics conclude in March?
Let's start with the easiest guy: Jimmy Fallon. Well, actually, Carson Daly's fate is even easier to describe -- the affiliates own the 2 a.m. hour, so he cannot air then, and even if his show did stick around, it has been an odd duck ever since he ditched the semi-live studio audience format (though that was an oddity, too), and Daly always has seemed out of place whenever he strays from being the Dick Clark of our time (even if Ryan Seacrest wants to take that title from Daly). NBC still can have Daly host New Year's Eve specials and let him focus on his strength as a music guy.
Nobody tell Jay Leno that he actually won the NBC late-night wars -- again -- because in Monday night's monologue, his first since NBC told TV critics over the weekend that they were giving him his old time-slot in March after the Winter Olympics, he came out joking about being cancelled. Among his quips, he noted that people "wanted drama at 10," and now they're getting it. Also, Leno says: "I take pride in one thing. I leave NBC primetime the same way I found it: A complete disaster." That's your prized possession, NBC. Be proud? Roll the clip...
Talk about the "gift" that keeps on giving. I've heard that both Jimmy Fallon and Conan O'Brien will make remarks tonight about the swirling rumors of reshuffling of the NBC late-night lineup, but they'll be later in the night. In less than an hour, they'll have to hear from Jay Leno first, who delivered more digs about his "cancellation" rumor, which, of course, is not a cancellation at all. He digs David Letterman, saying he is getting punished without sleeping with any of his staffers, and notes that he has not even unpacked from the last job he got "cancelled" from at NBC. Roll the clip!
And for the conspiracy theorists who thought NBC didn't want to post the jab from last night Leno made about NBC, Comcast and "anti-trust," well, the show page does have that up now.
Here's something. The Jay Leno Show doesn't even air on the East Coast for another 20 minutes or so, but the site already has posted video of Leno mocking NBC and rumors of his imminent demise and/or cancellation (or whatever is going to happen to him and his show after the Winter Olympics). Sometimes you have to love a comedian for going on TV and giving it to his/her bosses; other times, you think what kind of nerve this guy has. Considering how many millions of dollars he already has earned and stands to take from NBC, regardless of whatever GE or Comcast or network suits decide, I'm not inclined to root for the little guy. Because he's not the little guy. He's the big guy pushing everyone around. Roll the clip!