Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Sometimes They Come Back

That title up there is also the title of a Stephen King short story about a guy who is tormented by visions of his past. I wonder if David Letterman, Conan O'Brien or Jimmy Fallon have read it. Jay Leno has trundled off into the sunset. Again. This time it's for real. At least that's the way the National Broadcasting Company would like to tell it. The last time Jay left, NBC had him on a pretty short leash. They wanted to keep Jay and his chin around in prime time. That didn't work out so well. Not for Jay. Not for Conan. Jimmy Kimmel and David Letterman tried not to be too smug about it. But that's show biz, right?
Well, twenty-two years later, minus the four or five months when Jay came on before the local news and that red-haired guy was filling in for him, Jay Leno has left the building. Perhaps, to be more precise, the building is leaving Jay. The Tonight Show is heading back to its roots in New York City. Jay's staff has been laid off, and the Olympics are over in Sochi, the curtain will rise on a new era that might look strikingly like an old era for the Tonight Show. One that would be funny. One that would be worth watching. One that would at least be worth recording.
I used to like Jay Leno. Way back in the 1980's, when he was a guest on David Letterman's show. He was a stand-up comedian. He told jokes. There was an edge to the guy. In order to get the spot vacated by Johnny Carson, he sanded off those rough spots and became the safe and sane choice for America's late night talk show host. How might things have been different if David Letterman had walked right in and taken over? After all, Dave had a successful ten-year run as host of his own NBC late-night show. Jay was a stand-up comedian. Sometimes he was really funny. That's how you get a show, right? Sometimes you're funny. If you can be pretty funny for a number of years without embarrassing anyone or winding up dead, you'll probably get a show.
Now it's time to say goodbye to Jay one more time. Goodbye, Jay. If I were Jimmy Fallon, I would make sure that wherever they bury him, that it wasn't previously an Native American burial ground.

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