Leno: Like a Cat will always End up on His Feet!
By: Dr. Phil Taverna
There is little doubt that Jay Leno is the best of the late night talk show hosts. The ratings tell me so. It was difficult to understand or comprehend why in the world NBC would want to screw up the ratings some more. If you can come in fifth… Why not sixth.
I am probably one of the rare Americans who has actually watched the monologues of the key players. And there is little doubt that Jay Leno is by far the best stand-up comic. If one of the most important part of the late night shows to you is the opening monologue than Leno wins. He has been doing it his whole career and when he is not on the NBC stage, he makes his rounds across the country in different clubs. He loves his work and he loves to work. So I guess we must ask how much is NBC going to pay Leno not to work. So far it is $15 million dollars. At least that is what they said. But once September 2014 rolls around Jay will be a free agent. We don’t know how much he has left in the tank, but his bag of tricks probably holds a few curve balls for the NBC brass.
Let’s start with Letterman. He is the grand daddy of the group. He is a funny guy but he is really not a stand up. He is more of a clown. I enjoyed him for years and he usually puts together a decent monologue with his top ten renditions. Most of which are not real funny. But at least humorous. I remember one time when I watched him for years he had a monologue that lasted about 20 seconds and then he did the here is Paul Shaffer and off the monologue he went. Not sure he really likes stand-up or just wants to make fun in order to get his political views known!
The difference between Letterman and Leno is that Letterman is more a clown than a comedian. Don’t laugh at the punch line… Laugh at me. And Letterman has a great following and should take over the number one spot for at least a while after Leno leaves NBC.
Conan who I have also watched and he has taken a beating thanks to NBC, is actually a hybrid. Too bad he doesn’t have 4 wheels. And about 50% of his monologue is stand up and the other is laugh at me I have red hair and really white skin. One thing that struck me funny during the long writers’ strike was, when he finally went back on air without his writers, he did funny stuff or maybe clowning around stuff while he hid in the rafters of the studio. On the other hand Leno came out and did stand-up without his writers. And with or without his writers some nights the jokes work and some nights they didn’t. When Eubanks was around they used to joke about it being Friday jokes and they were using jokes that didn’t make the cut and they were left over for Friday. Those statements alone used to crack up the audience.
So that brings us to Jimmy Kimmel. He has come a long was from giving away Ben Stein’s money. With the Obama economy, maybe Ben should have held on to his money. It was worth more way back then.
Kimmel is really not a stand-up comic. Not like Carson or Leno. But he has the longest monologues. It is more a series of stories and clips with some comic relief some where in the story. And he does a bunch of “on the street stuff” which is funny. Like tell your kids you ate their Halloween candy and video tape it and put it on you tube. So I perceive Jimmy as being the funniest of the lot. Not as stand-up. But as a guy that lives and breathes a funny life. And it carries over in his interviews, his smile and his funny laugh. And it is great that Jimmy has moved to the 11:35 arena of night shows. Maybe not so great for Jimmy Fallon.
Jimmy Fallon who was great on SNL does not appear to like stand-up and he is not good at it. Most times he has to laugh at his own jokes. Or he tries to make his “Ed McMann” laugh. So if it is all about monologues, Jimmy F is going to have a real difficult time trying to fill Jay’s shoes. So is NBC trying to say that young people don’t laugh? Are they looking for young audiences that are still living in their parent’s basements. Stand-up is a talent… Not just reading a script!
If I was Jimmy I would spend the money wisely. Conan was making a ton of money and got tossed to the side of the road when the young audience he was supposed to inspire couldn’t figure out how to turn on NBC.
I can laugh at political jokes if they are funny. And they have a fair share of jokes on both sides of the aisle. I do miss the Clinton and Kennedy jokes. I can sit through a politician’s interview as long as they keep it non-political. Once they start lying … I mean politicking then it is time to fast forward the VCR tape. That also includes the Obamas. If they want to talk about life in the Whitehouse I am all ears. Once you start talking about feeding the kids in our public schools, it is splitsville, baby!
If I had a crystal ball I don’t see Jay sitting around counting the sunsets. Carson would have done something after the Tonight Show but his health let him down. But there is another major channel just sitting there with no talk show entertainer. This is the same station that paid John Madden a fortune to change saddles. What if Leno showed up on Fox followed by Conan again. What a dance we could have at night. But why wouldn’t NBC pay Leno until December 2014 to see how low the Fallon ratings will go? It would be worth it to keep Leno in the Bullpen to play in the 2015 season!
I see a future for Leno. By January 2015 Leno will be back in the saddle on NBC or making bigger bucks working for Fox. What will happen to NBC if that happens? There is always room for Fallon on TBS. Lopez had a funny sitcom but he is a great example of liberals trying the bash everything that gets in their way. It doesn’t take long for the rest of the audience to “change the channel”. It is tough to be an angry basher and funny at the same time to the whole audience. That maybe the key to success or should we say failure!
Bottom line is they have to be funny and I personally like great monologues. As usual NBC has set the stage for a round of funny stuff. Unfortunately it may not end well for Fallon or NBC and Lorne Michaels. And Jay will be laughing all the way to the bank. But at the end of the day… It’s great to have something to laugh about for Americans living the American Dream while trapped in the Obama nightmare! There is hope. Obama can’t be president forever! At least that is what the U.S. Constitution says today!
Dr. Phil Taverna owns and operates his own website.