A few weeks ago I talked about female celebrities who are hated for the horrible crime of being nice. But this affects male celebrities to. So here it is, I admit it. I really like Jay Leno.
Tonight marks the final episode of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (yes, for the second time but we’ll discuss that). I have always been a huge fan of Jay Leno. I am not sure when he got my attention because it wasn’t from his early appearances on The Tonight Show (I was to young to watch most of the Johnny Carson era). He was a major pitchman in the 80’s, doing ads for Doritos. Also he did do some acting. He appeared in a few sitcoms and with Pat Morita in one of the worst movies ever made, “Collision Course“. Seriously, check it out. By the way after he got The Tonight Show he did many cameos in sitcoms and movies including Dave, Home Improvement, Fresh Prince of Bel Air and The Simpsons not to mention voice over work in several animated films like We’re Back! A Dinosaur Story.
But I was a fan of his comedy. I enjoyed his stand up. I still have on tape a prime time special he made back in 1988, and his Headlines segment continues to get a laugh from me every time. I even have the books that were published and to this day some of those crazy articles bring a smile to my face. Now to be fair, that doesn’t mean I like everything he does. His jokes get a bit repetitive (how many times has he made fun of China, or how overweight the nation is?) and I hate it when he goes out on the street to talk to real people. That is almost never funny. But I still liked him.
Leno was the permanent fill in for several years, and those later years in Carson’s tenure saw a lot of need for a fill in. Carson was off more than he was on. Then in 1992 Johnny Carson announced his retirement, and suddenly everything went nuts.If you don’t remember the controversy involved who would replace Carson. Leno, or David Letterman. I was never a huge fan of Letterman, so when NBC decided to pick Leno as the replacement I was cool with that. No one else was though.
After a heartwarming final episode for Carson, Leno premiered the next week. And didn’t do very well. And of course, Letterman moved over to CBS and did very well. But over the years Leno has done better and his ratings gotÂ better. Especially when he stopped trying to be a clone of Carson and do his own thing. When the OJ Simpsons story broke, Leno went nuts making fun of that and that, combined with a timely Hugh Grant interview, finally made people accept Leno as the new host of The Tonight Show.
I was in college the first four years of his Tonight Show, and while I had respect for Carson I was very happy that he had stepped down. He was old school, and I just preferred Leno and his comedy. I watched every night, for the most part, those four years of college and for me Jay Leno’s Tonight Show will always have a special place in my memories of that awesome time of my life.
Then I graduated and had to became an adult, so the Tonight Show took a backseat. I watched every so often, Friday night’s when I could stay up, but not every night. Then a little thing called Tivo was invented. God bless the DVR! Now I could watch every day, usually in the morning while getting ready for work. Then in 2009, things went crazy again!
We all know this story, NBC decided to replace Leno with Conan and then put Jay in a 10:00 show. This was a dumb idea, and the Jay Leno Show is one of the biggest blunders ever. But the real trouble began when NBC sought to rectify its mistake. Long story short, Conan walked away and Jay was back in the Tonight Show. I DO NOT blame Leno for that. I really do blame NBC for that. Now I will admit it, at the time I thought he should be the bigger person and step down and let Conan have the job. But since Conan was the one who left, and I understand why, I can’t blame Leno for going back. And I have continued watching ever since.
So this time, I feel that the retirement is for good. I think that people feel about Leno today the way I felt about Carson in 1992. That his day his done and it’s time for someone young and fresh. I am not a huge fan of Fallon, but he is ok and has some good bits like his Thank You Notes whcih I find hilarious. I will not watch The Tonight Show regularly, but I may still tune in. Of course Leno will still be around, he has a car show on cable and will continue to do stand up all over the country.
Jay Leno has always been one of my favorite comedians and he is such a big part of my past. I loved him as a kid, watched him in college, and continued to be a fan through marriage and everything else. I will miss The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and yes I am sad that it’s gone because it’s just anoher sign that I am getting old.