World Themes

World Themes for Indian Cinema (Part 5 of 8)

Co-Blogging Series – Anand C and Lazy Geek
jay leno

If you think the conventional take on everyday events is mundane and monotonous, you’ll enjoy these recent quips on George W, on a 45-second stretch in the Tonight Show (NBC, weeknights, 11:35 P.M):

Q: Why was the president surprised at “Meet the Press”?
A: He heard that he would also be asked questions! (since it was “meet the press!”)

Q: Mr. President, were you ever AWOL in the army?
A: No, always used Earthlink.

Leno: For the rest of the world it’s “D-Day”. In the president’s house, it’s “report card day”.

Q: What connects the death of Jesus with the war on Iraq?
A: Lack of credible intelligence in the Middle East.

The man behind the humor – Jay Leno – is probably the best known stand-up comedian today and host of “The Tonight Show”. Jokes are oxygen to Leno. It is his peculiar talent to pick over jokes, news items, and tidbits of information – he gets about 200 to 300 submissions a day – select the funniest of the crop, and fashion them into an 11-minute monologue that will persuade millions to stay up later than they probably should for a humorous take on the events of the day… few perspectives on his life and work (Source: FORTUNE Magazine):

He began, awkwardly, using Johnny Carson’s set (the person he replaced as host), which had been designed to keep Johnny some distance away from the audience. Only after NBC built Leno a new 350 – seat studio – where he works closer to the band and to the crowd, as if in a comedy club – did he get comfortable. The microphone on the host’s desk is one of the few remnants of the old set, although it hasn’t been turned on for years.

‘How to win friends and influence people’
He is a quirky man – hot liquids never touch his lips, and he eats the same thing for lunch every day for a year. He acts as his own agent. In an industry where stars often demand to be indulged, he is an affable team player. Above all, he is a relentless salesman. “Show business is not hard,” he says. “It’s all just basic Dale Carnegie stuff.”

One reason he does not use an agent anymore is that he doesn’t want anyone to speak for him and possibly offend a client or fan. “That’s really what this business is about,” he says. “Contact with the customers. Because it’s really feast or famine. You meet a guy on the elevator and you say hello. Well, for the rest of your career, you are the greatest guy in the world. But if you go, ‘Excuse me, I’m busy,’ you are just an asshole. Lyndon Johnson used to say that every handshake is worth 250 votes, and it’s really true, especially in television.”

Performing before live audiences tells him whether he’s still connecting with the public. “You go out on the road, and they laugh or they boo,” he says. “If I go to Vegas, and there are 1,800 seats and all of them are sold, then I’m doing something right on The Tonight Show. That’s my barometer.”

He has not slowed down. “This sounds silly,” he says, “but my attitude is, sooner or later, the other guy is going to have to eat, drink, go to the bathroom, get laid, or take a vacation, and that’s when I catch him. That’s always worked for me.” Once, when he was home working on the next day’s monologue, he flipped on the TV and saw a rival talk show host at a Lakers game. “Gotcha,” he thought. “I’m working. You’re playing. What are you doing? This is a school night.” He won’t go to bed until half the monologue is written. “I don’t go anywhere,” he says. “This is what I do.”

It takes courage to be funny, and to stick by it. To do more, not less of stand up comedy. Monologue of 11 minutes. Probably an interesting way to remind that no matter what happens, life goes on… and there’s always another joke to be told!

17 thoughts on “World Themes for Indian Cinema (Part 5 of 8)

  1. Anand is in US so he gets it through NBC, every night.

    During weekends, we can watch it in CNBC, ofcourse, if you are subscribed to Settop box system.


  2. Anand is in US so he gets it through NBC, every night.

    During weekends, we can watch it in CNBC, ofcourse, if you are subscribed to Settop box system.


  3. Jay sucks. He is quite repetitive, and we usually can predict his jokes after watching 10 shows.

    I love Letterman. And his show is a million times more funny.


  4. Personally, i think conan is a goofball. I also second Guru’s opinion that folks like Leno are merely reinforcing what people already know and see. I also think if you do 5 live shows a week, 52 weeks a year, and tape a show everyday (letterman tapes his fri show on thurs!), you set yourself up for comments like this.

    all this is beside the point. this is a theme on comedy and the courage to be funny, not a personal judgement on Leno (though it has to be evident at this point what i feel about him). letterman & conan represent the theme as much as jay does!


  5. I agree, Conan is much funnier. Leno is a workhorse, but so what? His monologues are way too long and the jokes are lame. Quantity over quality, I guess. I can’t stand his Jaywalking segment either. Letterman has not been all that good recently, but he’s better than Leno.

    Conan is my favorite. Anyone see the 1800s baseball sketch?


  6. I feel that Jay Leno is not good doing something extempore. He works well with scripts. I remember one episode with Jim Carrey, where Carrey was trying to do something on the spot and Leno was not responding right and the joke fell flat. I doubt that will happen with Conan. After all Conan was in the original team that created Simpsons*. But given a script Jay is the best.

    * – That reminds me, why are there no good sitcoms in tamil? I confess I am out of touch with Tamil TVs, but there werent any (except for ramani vs Ramani which was average at the best) when I was around in Chennai. Do you think there is any chance of a sitcom like Seinfeld in tamil? Even hindi had a good one (atleast the first 20 episodes are so) in Dekh Bhai Dekh.


  7. Conan usually makes a joke about it if a monologue joke or a sketch falls flat. “That’s the kind of silence you get only in deep space” 🙂 Also, the Chuck Norris lever was absolutely hilarious.

    He didn’t help create The Simpsons, but was a producer and writer during seasons 4 and 5.


  8. Any comments about Jon Stewart (Daily Show on Comedy central)? His show is quite funny and has a lot of political insight.


  9. Jay Leno is good but not great. If you get old reruns of his predecessor – Johnny Carson, you will know what talk/comedy show greatness is. Jay Leno has about 6 writers writing him most of the jokes. It is impossible to come up with so much new material (however good or average) by just going over the news and viewer submissions. You are a genius if you can come up with 5 such one-liners everyday.
    Btw I really like his new sidekick John Melendez. (Do you know Kevin Eubanks came to IIT-Kanpur with a Jazz-Rock band a long time back.. He is a real musician with a degree from the Berkelee school of music in Boston.)


  10. LayzGeek, latest New Yorker has an article on outsourcing in Chennai zeroing onto a demon (a compliment, actually) company called “Office Tiger”. its not on the Net else I would have forwarded it. It is very interesting. Read it if you can access it, and let us know your views.


  11. Hi Ashok – good pointer. I also heard from a comedian friend of mine that Johnny Carson was so good that NBC had a hard time convinving themselves Jay would fill in those shoes. Will try and get a hold of the re-runs.

    I have a pending post on the Fruitcake Lady too 🙂


Comments are closed.