1 Episode results for "John On Birch Society"

Jay Leno

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn

57:51 min | 1 year ago

Jay Leno

"This message comes from NPR sponsor xfinity. Some things are slow like a snail races. Other things are fast like Xfinity X. by get get fast speeds even when everyone is online working to make WIFI simple easy awesome more at xfinity dot com restrictions apply with Jesse Thorn is a production of maximum fund dot org and is distributed by NPR hello. I'm Jesse Thorn. It's this week. I'm thrilled to have on Jay. Leno one of the greatest stand up comics of all time one of the biggest TV hosts in the history of TV hosts also a guy who by his own admission never got much love from critics the guy who got cast more or less as the villain in the late night battles with David Letterman Conan O'Brien all talk with them about those battles in the past now and he's more reflective selective but it's still hard to pierce the veil. It's hard to know how he feels about that stuff. One thing though is crystal-clear comes to Jay Leno. He loves to work above pretty much everything else so it won't surprise you to learn if he's spending what could be his retirement making a television show. It's called Jay Leno's garage it airs on. CNBC and it's not by accident that Jay has been doing this as long as he has is. He still a disarming interview still charming and Witty and quick on his feet. He's hilarious. He is very very good at what he does. Here's the episode from the newest season of Jay Leno's garage. He's talking with Charlie. Sheen and they're chatting about Charlie's role in the one thousand nine hundred eighty six car movie. Remember your kid. Who is when you come back as a car. It's it doesn't make a lot of sense to me still but it's a true stories obviously interested yes yeah. I've come back as this car but as a spirit wraith right to to seek revenge on the road gang that killed me of course all right okay my my brother works at a burger joint. My Ex love interest is now with the leader the gang so this is based on your own family hundred percent yeah you know because this is about the time platoon coming out right yes of course the Kademi award award-winning film. I shot this pit. Stop on the way to the Philippines to make La- tune so this came out in the theaters before platoon right came out and Oliver actually they went Oliver Stone wanting to saw it in the movie theater and called me so angrily afterwards. Why do you think this is going to ruin. He says you cannot do films like this. What is this movie about. What are you a car your car and perhaps you've ruined platoon jalen welcome to bulls. I'm really glad to have you on the show. Thanks that it was probably the most enthusiastic thank you ever received. Appreciate it well. I'm I I'm absolutely delighted that you've arrived at my door in costumes Jay Leno that's right. That's right. You're wearing your signature denim on denim. Yeah you know people say why this well. It's just because people we'll see you and that is a joke. They like one year is a joke. The writers gave me fifty two shirts one for every day of the week okay. Thanks you guys okay and then like every every sponsor. Oh we know you like Oh. We gave you a denim thing with our coca. Cola put emblem and I cut the emblem off and just wear the shirt so ultimately I I have at last count five hundred eighteen to these shirts and I think four hundred twelve pairs of jeans I'm not I'm not GonNa lie to you Jay. I've never met you in person. This is the first time I met you in person. You look very handsome in the shirt. I thank you thank you very much. Look very handsome. Compliments here is especially with the Silver Fox thing. You've got going on and that's really intentional. The Silver Hawks thing did you famous for driving around Los Angeles in unusual motor vehicles such shoe. Did you come here in a regular car or an unusual came here regular car because you don't bring anything unusual downtown. La Believe me you don't that's that's only for Burbank Yeah Yeah. It's really just yeah my cars. Leave going to big circle and then go back to the original location so I you know if they don't know where I'm going. I just take a regular car. I think a lot of people who are automotive enthusiasts are into like the most powerful fastest car or the car that projects the image image of the most power in fastness. Whether it's you know an Italian sports car or a you know an American muscle car. You're very well known for loving living cars from the brass era I like every kind of I liked noble failures. I like cars that were ahead of their time in their time. That didn't in quite make it you know yeah. I like anything unusual like you know my buddy of mine. He lives in. He lives in Holland. He has my favorite car car. It was it's called the Swan car. It was built for an Indian Maharajah and it has giant Swan head but this wanted is very the angry it shoots boiling water on pedestrians if they if they get out of it you present and it goes out of the mouth come to stream of scalding hot water view the people would literally so he would drive this thing with this big swan hand in the front and when people got close to the car he just press the button and and this boiling hot would come out in skull. The puppy ends of the street. They're horrible thing but it just it just made me laugh as great card AH perfect for. La Really you grew up to first and second generation immigrant parents write. Your father was Scott. Your mother Wisconsin town the funniest combination. It is a very unusual I mean. The Scots are known for their you know cold weather hardiness. Yeah you know the funny part was when I would go to my aunt Nettie House. That was my mother's sister. Would you scungy me like a school in it. She gave me the stale biscuit and then she'd say would you like Coca Cola Jimmy and she kept it in the cupboard and she'd say you know Jamie. It tastes tastes the same whether it's not seem refrigerated costs money it silly to put Coca Cola frigid and then she'd pour me this Kokin all the phys were becoming out of it as she port and I get the stale biscuit you know and I it was horrible. Then I go to the Italian side all my the Zonta in meatballs and it was funny because I was has always pulled in two directions you know as a little kid scotch people. They've got genie cheapie. Look at the Waist Jamie the Italian people only eight people here. There must be thirty five meatballs. That's that's crazy Jimmy to waste food like that. It's terrible thing you know and then the Italians have scotch people. They're all cheap Jane and whatever here five dollars you know and and both sides love me me equals. I guess but it was just funny to watch them. Each try to win me over with their own particular philosophy of of how life was and how you should live your life and it was just a just a funny experience. Just this is why this current situation with the immigrant thing just makes me so angry. Now living in America makes you inherently lazy and you always need that new blood to come in all the time when I used to go Jay walking. You know we'd not doors and ask people questions. I remember when to one the house and the grandfather who spoke only Spanish and he was dressed. Although he's of his house he had a sport coat on not expensive for anything but he he was dressed nicely and then his son who spoke Spanish and English came to the door to explain his father's and he was just kind of like I dress and then I met his teenage son who had like a F. U. T. Shirt on it some Kinda hat and he spoke no Spanish and he's had some video game but his hand wasn't paying attention and it just made me laugh to watch this degeneration as you become more American you get seduced by pizza and hamburgers and cars and rock and roll and it just to watch it sort of frivolous fairly fluid away you know and I it just it just I. I always remember that just made me laugh. You know you had an older brother who y went to Gail Law brothers in the service and so on and so forth and US ten years old if I remember right right it's going to be what are you gonNA. WanNa do with. Jr's remember my parents haven't that's. What are you going to do with James. I was like because I was not I was not I was not a good student in fact when I was in High School Guidance Counselor 'cause my mother and she says I'm sitting there. She Goes Mrs. Let let me ask. You haven't taken Jay out of school. No ought to teach you how to schooling in where he works at McDonalds. Doesn't you know they have that McDonnell university he could go to they would teach them how to make change. I'm going hey I'm in the room. Hey Hello and then he said something. That's to this day makes me laugh. He said you know Mrs. Leno education is not for everyone. Hey what are you doing so when I got the tonight show I actually voted Mr to kneel who was my guidance counselor at the time to come sit in the audience and I singled him out and I told that story just very funny doesn't sound funny to be it but it doesn't sound like a funny thing to have experienced. Oh it's please. It's alright. It's you know I was always pretty off off the cuff. I was no I'm. I'm pretty thick skin so it was. It just made me laugh. I'm sitting there. You Know Mrs Leno Education's not for everyone go hey. I'm in the room but I mean like re. Were you even thick-skinned like as a God knows I wasn't that I'm not that exciting now but I wasn't when when I was a teenager I mean I'm sure it affected me more than that. Well put it this way. It's it's funny in the telling. After you've been successful this I'm sure or if if if I was digging dishes and then guys scouser told me sounds told me to go dig ditches you know how did do you feel about it. Then though I don't really remember it was just another sort of water off the back type of thing all right. KFI My mother you know you gotTa do better okay. Mom will do better in school. Oh you know one of those deals. You know I mean it seems like you really I mean particularly for a comedian you know I think there are a lot of a hardworking folks folks in showbusiness. Sho- businesswomen exists without a ton of hard work but I think it's particularly I stand up like you really committed your life too hard hard work early yeah I mean I was. I mean like I said. You'd have to work twice as hard as the other kids to get the same thing and I would see that you know we go down in New York. Maybe I would drive down four nights a week five nights a week out of Boston to audition a comedy clubs when you were in college at Emerson College and you line up at like six o'clock to get an eleven o'clock spot and I remember sitting in line and guys in front of me. Go screw this. I'm not standing and they'd walk. I go good. I move up okay. Thank you and that always worked for me and I realized as I got older you know. It's not that I'm any smarter. It's just most people don't have the patience or the attitude or whatever to stick this out and that's you know I always looked. It's show business is a business not as a as a party thing. You know I mean I would when I was hosting the tonight show every night. You go home and you write the next day's monologue that night you don't go to Laker Games. You don't go to movie premieres you just write the jokes and when I would watch competitors for the most part they would do jokes for the first couple of months and then gradually they wouldn't have monologue. Hey y'all doing tonight. Good Yeah Yeah. We we gotta show for you tonight. Ah they really weren't saying anything to me. I realized that will never about me was about the jokes I always remember. One Guy said to me like you but I like some of the jokes you tell it pretty really funny. Okay great then. I realize it's about the product if they don't like you well. That's too bad. You're trying to make him like you but they don't like you. Hopefully they'll like the product and that's what I always worked for me. When you were coming up in stand up in Los Angeles Carson was pretty much a kingmaker like yeah exactly of everything he was yeah. Did you admire him as a performer as much as I always like any comedian that look normal normal and was funny without props you know I was never a big fan of the flower that squirts water in the lapel and all that kind of crap you know Zany Anush Zany wacky. I like people who just sort of started talking and Oh wow this is really funny. You know this is really good. You know what you know is shockingly. I mean for somebody like he retired when I was a kid so I only have like vague memories having watched them on tv a few times at when I like when he was on TV but watching his work now I'm struck by what Ah cool presence. He is very much being the host of the most important show and I don't. I don't mean like necessarily like well. See don't Oh forget before him. Comedians are usually funny looking right or if not funny looking odd looking like like Rodney like henny young men the Milton Berle with the mugging in the faces. He was had a boyish charm. That really worked worked he. Could you know back in the day. He could sell what you would call a racy joke something nobody else could get away with. He could get away with it because he had that sort impish boyish charm you know now. He's very very good and a lot of times. He didn't get the credit. You know people have said to me well when Johnny did there. Were only three networks he the only thing I know they put everything against him whether it was Merv Griffin and was Keith Brazil and I mean the new Jack Parr and I mean all these people and nobody nobody nobody could take him out he was he was really really the best. Did you think of him that way. As a time oh I thought it was very good yeah. I thought he was the one I admired most. Yes I mean I I remember in my high school graduation San. I'm going to go to California and hopefully be hosted tonight. Show I said no that's GONNA. Do you know everybody thought I was crazy. So at the reunion now I was a big hero. I mean that is crazy. That's crazy. Plan is a crazy point. It works for you. That is a crazy. They're not wrong longed for me but you know it's it's like if you have a thousand people throwing dice and Vegas. Eventually one guy is gonNA. Whoa he's GonNa think there's some magical adjective thing here because he he made it all the way through you know and that was Kinda. Lucky that way. We'll continue my interview with Jay. Leno after the break still to come more tonight show intrigue stay with us it's Bullseye for maximum fund dot org and NPR this message comes from NPR sponsor squarespace space squarespace has the all in one platform to build an online presence and run your business create your company's website using customizable layouts along with features including ECOMMERCE immerse functionality and mobile editing and squarespace offers built in search engine optimization go to squarespace dot com slash NPR for a free trial when you're ready to launch us the offer code and the are to save ten percent off your first purchase a website port domain rambling blend is back with a brand new season of stories from all over Latin America and across the US we kick things off with a voice that some of you may have heard me talking to voiced the resin fall of one of Latin America's most famous voiceover artists and the industry that crumbled around him learnt it from NPR. Listen and subscribe right now. Hello there ghouls and gals. It Is II pro-war. I'm here to take you through the twisty scary heart pounding world of Genre Cinema on the exhilarating program known as switch lease the concept is so I invite a female filmmaker on each week and we discussed their favorite favorite genre film listening closely to hear past guests like the Baba duck director Jennifer Ken winter's bone director Debra Granik and so many others there's every Thursday on maximum dot tune-in if you did ed actually a very thought provoking show that deeply explored the craft and philosophy behind nfl making process while also examining film through the Lens of the female gaze so like you should listen switch. Please Mr you're listening to bowls. I'm Jesse Thorn when I'm in the studio with Jay Leno the longtime host of the tonight show now the host of Jay Leno's garage it's in its fifth season on CNBC NBC. How did you get the job as guest host of the tonight show. How did I get the Job Yeah. I mean obviously you were a very well respected standup comedy guest house. I remember at the time they were. It was about eight or nine people guest hosting and most of them had the same manager and the manager called me and said listen. WE'RE GONNA go to network and WE'RE GONNA ask for twenty five thousand dollars a show to host and I said you know I'm asking for five hundred eighteen dollars show that was scale. He goes well. That's stupid. I I don't know that's he goes. Look we can get it twenty five thousand dollar show okay now. All the guests hosts were about equal to each other out doing fine rating wise well. I knew Janis Company company paid for this show so Leno's doing okay what's his rants. Okay and what's this guy getting okay. This guy wants twenty five thousand and then once five hundred and eighteen. Why don't why are we going to let them? I mean it's very simple very simple. I never looked at I never once asked for a raise TV. I forgot was any good. I always lived on the money. I made his standup comedian. That was my thing that that's what I do for a living. That's my profession. If I'm lucky lucky enough to get a job in TV I will bank that money and I will save it and I will use it somewhere else but I'm going to live on. What I make is a performer because they you'd say that you're not hungry. Anymore is the day you're not funny anymore the day you're you're out of it you know so even though. I had a ton of money in the bank I always acted like I was broke on the road. I'd Love Oh my twenty five dollars a day per diem and I would just sort of do that and I mean it's just psychological. You know if I didn't if I didn't work as a comedian. I didn't think I made anything because because the TV money would just automatically go into some bank account somewhere or something I I know. This sounds stupid but it is ridiculous it is but but it worked for me and what I what I understand is like the idea that I mean doing. Comedy is ridiculous so I mean I. I really understand the idea that in order to do something this hard and it really is hard hard. You have to have a little bit of the fear of God like you have to be. You have to be running from a dragon to get top speed a little bit well yeah. That's probably beat show but you know Seinfeld. I have discussion all the time I remember. Jerry and I were talking one time and said what if we took a vacation and we liked it then. We're screwed route. That's right. You're screwed now. If you're sitting on a beach I mean obviously there are downsides to this. I mean I live in beverly the hills. I have a pool. I've really never been in because every time I get to the pool. I hear that Boston Voice. What what are you. Mr Cool now will oh you sit in the pool in Beverly Hills. How do you not broken here. You got nothing need fixing really where you're going to sit in a pool. That's why people go by. You wave now. You're right. You're right. I cannot bring myself to go on. This just becomes to the point where it's I just feel as if that's the ultimate not now you've sold out now. You're lazy. You're sitting in the pool. I I mean the detail that I remember most vividly from reading the late shift. Was the detail of your wife going on vacation without you so I said I'll send her. A whole graduating class to Europe to me is like a bad day at Disneyland. I can't stand it but it's not like no but see I have a great marriage with the married forty years and and I love her and it's wonderful so it's not like Oh but she likes to me. That's just right now. I'm not suggesting that you would that your wife would go on vacation without you because you don't like each other but simply because you just don't see the value of clean on the value of going on sorry going to do a stand up gig in Fresno. What am I doing. It's worth well see that's the thing though because when I was broke I was was really broke and he used to sleep in an alley off forty fourth and ninth right in the middle a hell's kitchen and I remember seeing through the alleyway dykes lumber yard yard which I believe is still there and I remember sleeping in that alley and it was one of those alleys in relieve me. Hell's kitchen was way worse in the seventies indies than it is now and prostitutes bring jobs into the alley and I'd be like sleeping in the corner. You just hear the most horrible horrible to say. I'm just sitting at cry my eyes out one night just saying Oh man this is my life now really wanted to sleep in alleys and it just I. I just thought if I ever make it. I am not going to turn down jobs. I'm not going to be how much they pay. No that's not enough. I'm sorry you know I think what am I doing on Tuesday this worth this kind of money so that's probably the low self esteem thing. That's where it comes in and that probably AIDS in your success when you were guest hosting the tonight show. Would you have in your mind going to host the tonight. Show and Johnny Carson Retires No. I thought that would be a nice thing. I mean I mean you had told your our way out of highschool your later. Everything was sort of going that way but no I mean. I thought that would be nice. If it happens. I mean I became the permanent guest host which was a lot of time because Johnny was all fifteen weeks a year. You're so I kind of worked out so it seemed like the logical thing Dave was doing his show and you know people always think oh you stole the show I did I was I was a guest host for five years. I was on every night and NBC's mine they had successful show at twelve thirty the extremely successful with Dave and it's accessible show lengthier me guest hosting if they pulled me out move dave down why have no choice but had to go somewhere else or they could keep. I mean I think in some ways day was the victim was success that way because that's I think that was the networks thinking. There was no who who you know 'cause. It's all their choice. I WANNA play a clip of you on Letterman's show now the late night okay not allege. That was my favorite time of my life doing that show with Dave and I think you're I mean I you know I was the kid then only watched it on. You know bootleg. VHS tapes we'll send me in nineteen ninety nine or whatever but in these days a lot of it's on youtube right but you know you were many many people's fave on that show because the two of you while the funny show so continent. Mike really all the front dave was an equal with Johnny. I would always call Mr Carson Carson Jack John and I just I didn't grow grow up in an era where your parents friends you call them by their first name. It was just awkward and I couldn't go to Johnny Nice Tie Pal. You know it was like yes. It's from mclovin collection very loving collections with Letterman. I see I was I always knew what used to drive letterman nuts and my favorite thing I always get like a huge huge meatball sandwich or something and I'd hide in the hall and when I saw Dave coming down to make up I just end the whole each Ezekiel. Huck your ten. How can you eat that day. ooh. Why should they bring meatball sandwich out on the set day would be you know hilarious because Davis truly awkward. I mean hilariously awkward. You know I mean the definitely Dave and I when I made the tonight. Show my own. We brought the audience right up close and I would shake hands with people people in the crowd. I remember David Really Funny Bit when I say I want to shake hands of people in the crowd and he was behind a big plastic wall and he put his hands through the hole in wall to gloves in it and then he would shake hands with the gloves with few I mean that was the difference that was his version of making fun of what I did you know and it was very funny and he very famously aimlessly in the course of his program kind of winnowed the number of staff members with whom interacted down to the down to the barest which honestly as the owner owner of a company with twenty seven employees. I love all my employees. They're wonderful people amazing people including the winter sitting right on the other side of that glass but like I totally understand like I there's a part of me that would rather just work under my desk so no one can look at me. I get get home with my dog on my lap. Let's play. Let's play Jay Leno my guest on late night with David Letterman in the mid nineteen eighties yeah. What do you do for entertainment when you're on the road. It's lonely isn't it. Oh it's lonely. It's Rambo and come on the genocide movie. How about you. It'd be wise all the movie. I read the book which wasn't actually a book. It was a two page to page pamphlet. I got from the John on Birch Society and just kind of a simple thing. Rambo opens fire page to the end. You know you know what I love. I love when foreign countries get very self righteous about the United States like England now wants to ban Rambo because they feel the movie condones American style violence next along with meeting. Go back and reshoot some of the scenes in a soccer uniform. Make it a little easier for them. I can't believe forgotten all that material actually pretty funny yeah. It's pretty solid I. I really like I mean you know. Genocide is fundamentally tragic etc but I like the idea that genocide is something that let's do the gang's all here. The real trick is no letterman sensibilities. Sensibilities and Letterman is an excellent wordsmith. He was always a great wordsmith and to me. I always get annoyed at comics. I am not against obscenity. It's fine. I just find it boring. I don't find it as a punchline. Here's somebody call somebody in a whole. That's not really funny. So when Dave I always to try to come up with names that would I know he would laugh at us at the carnival may have these syphilis druids running dry run on the right say they have no shirts on and he would would go Leonard Druids. It's right David and he and I would just go back and forward over that all the time. Maybe the greatest connoisseur of like a super flat word dislike that way. I mean I remember one time. We're talking. I never even got to the punchline but it was. I said you know the old Manson place the other day just to see some of the got all the old Manson. Oh you know it hasn't changed. Dave you know since sixty nine and we just started with. Dave kept repeating what I would say over and over again. It was just very funny it. There's a lot of fun. I don't know how many people are close with David Letterman but the two of you had known each other for a really long time and weren't at the very least least friendly colleagues. Do the two of you ever talk about the tonight show before Carson retired. I think Dave took a pretty hard when he didn't get it. I think so too to characterization sure sure yeah. It was one of those you know it's interesting. I like to think it worked out well because he got the critical acclaim and I got the popular vote and we each left with something okay. I was the guy you know the gut. The highest rating Nice Number Day was the acerbic guide sharp and all the critics loved him the best and that's okay. I mean that's fine. You can't everything but Yeah I. I say. That was extremely difficult for him. I don't think he hated me. I think he hated the way it turned out and I became the butt of a lot of the jokes folks and stuff and the reason I asked if the two of you had ever talked about it before Carson retired is because it feels to me only having read about it you were there but it feels to me only having read about it that like it was there was an an absence of communication between two friends about something who shared this same goal of which only one person can have it and maybe you thought you know this is my dream. I hope they pick me and he thought maybe that they you know they had already implicitly picked him. Maybe you thought they had already implicitly permanent guest. What happened was I think Dave did not get along with the suits at NBC yeah and I think there was a lot out of he would mock them on the air all kinds of stuff and they took it pretty seriously. I remember one executive said to me. You know I didn't WanNA. Put Up the twenty years of that. I went okay. I guess that was you know and Jack. Welch was a pretty Jack. Welch was running. NBC At the time the head guy and he made decisions and he would go pretty hard at the company enjoyed. It wasn't like I think in later years he would joke about the CBS Primetime lineup right successful in a kind of relatively gentle way most people aren't mocking their own network and relatively gentle but he would go pretty hard in the on late night at the company in general right right right well yeah and and I think that that played a role in a two but ultimately all of it comes down to finances. It's where they think they can make the most money and that's really it's a business decision. You know the idea that one one person will you stole the show well. If I'm so smart. How did I lose it. In the first place I would always have the ridiculous ridiculous theories that the network doc had to pay me one hundred and fifty million all they didn't and they don't do that. You know it's just the only thing I ever had was different than anybody else. Had I always had a pay. A and play contract not pay or play people love pair play like so if you don't work they have to pay you and my attitude resorts. If if you don't work you had no value. Oh you to them so they just paying you just go away. Just get Outta here. We don't even want you anymore so I never took money for not working so all my contract. If I had a five of your contract they had to keep me on the played-out. Was it hard to enjoy the fact that you had achieved the dream of have teenage Jay Leno given that you were surrounded by public weirdness and especially given that it was an with an ultrasound yeah. It was hard to but I again I didn't. I never tried to believe the good stuff and I never tried to believe the bad add stuff so I mean you know what's funny. This is the greatest time in my life right now. I'm just having a ball a comedian now and I'm well know when you start most comedians to tell you. They'll say it took me five minutes but I got him up there twenty minutes before I got him or I never got him but there's always a time when you got him. Now you got them. The Mitch Walk Out on stage. You just have to keep them which is actually easier and and in and more and more fun. Yeah I've done a lot of comedy shows for fans of mine yeah and it's a very different experience than when my comedy partner her and I hosted a show at the Ice House for a month or two two strangers. You'd like people who like you going in. It is dramatically different right right but the affirmation of strangers is the greatest thing about being a comic. You don't want your friends in the audience and radio. It's almost it's not impossible. Make the jump from from radio to stand up but in some ways it is because radio my favorite thing is when I go to a town and hey jay the breakfast flakes. They're going to open for you in in the morning the morning zoo. They got how long do twenty five minutes right so you guys got. Hey Jay. We do five hours every morning. Okay I think we can do twenty minutes. Okay Great. I'm sitting there. They're out there two minutes. Okay please walk up Jila Jake because it's the exact opposite officers of having an act well. Having an act is the economy of words. It's the ability to have a joke every six to nine seconds but taking every six or nine seconds anything longer than that the boy they get a little bored so you've just gotTa keep it boom boom boom and my favorite okay here's his when you hear a Dj they were talking to this. You know here in the United States of America the greatest country in the world by the way I think we all agree with that or you know here in the US okay but you as a DJ. You're watching the clock. He got five hours to fill you. Just gotTa keep you gotTa keep the words coming and whether funny you're not you've got. You've got space to fill whereas a STANDUP. You've gotTa have jokes in every one of those spaces or you're just you're following the most legendary legendary late night television host in American history when you took over the tonight show right and somebody that you personally admired and professionally admired was there. Were there things that you thought are going to be the Jay. Leno things about well tonight. Show started. We were live live live for the first two or three weeks which means no edit no cue cards no nathen. I just had to I you just memorize the monologue because it was you know it was it was weird when I took over because there's a lot of animosity and you know I brought in kind of a different band and you know always just it was just a lot of animosity and and in some ways it was made especially tricky by the fact that I I don't know whether we're following the summer. Olympics whatever it was but there was some reason we were live live so the monologue had to be within six or ten seconds or when it needed to be and all of that you know so you had to keep all those balls in the air at the same time so it yeah it was. It was tricky tricky but I I. I like like pressure. I I work well under pressure. I like having a deadline. I liked that I liked pressure. What did you think was going to be different about the way that you did things. I had no idea I had no idea you just go out and you do what you try and find the things that work for you. The headlines always worked for me. Jaywalking worked for me initially. It didn't work work because I was doing johnny show Johnny Stage and in those days the tight shows set was here and then about thirty to forty feet away. You had these seats. It's a little bit went straight up like in a Broadway theatre almost like you're hanging and it was such a weird thing to look up to look up in this in the air and see the audience. I mean look normal on TV because Johnny's head would be high but you everybody was up there and and I just felt uncomfortable and we went to New York. I said to Don Omar's. Can we just move the people literally. Put Him on the stage. So what I walked out. I could shake hands and I could you know and I could see people's faces. Jason see the rise in his Co.. Suddenly it became much more normal to me and that's what we did. We eventually built a set so I had real close contact with people in necessary. I mean you're much warmer performer than Carson ever was and I don't mean that as a criticism of Carson I just talked about how amazing it. It was how cool he was like your well. I generally like people you know. I like to talk to people I find people pretty funny. I am very optimistic. Missing Person I think ultimately people do the right thing. I know that sounds naive but I you know I read this thing once at one in every six hundred people as a criminal and if you live in villages six hundred people you don't catch the guy you gotTa crimewave because this guy's every day and we have a cottam and it seems like everybody's evil terrible no that guy. It's just get that guy and you're fine and that's my that's why I've always been you know I always you play an audience audience like it's an orchestra. You'd learn how to read crowd. You know I remember once. I had a Hillary Clinton joke. I it's escapes me what it was when she was running for president. Sir and I didn't like the laughing because the audiences laughing I felt they were laughing at it because she was a woman and not because she was a candidate. It was kind of joke where I went. I would hear Ya like a real male guttural. I said Oh man I just I just didn't didn't like so I took the joke out and I was better for you. Know and that's what it's like you you learn how to how to play an audience like it's an orchestra you. WanNa have to me. The perfect audience is male female black white every kind of there's no. There's every kind of personality. Keep you honest so you're not doing gay jokes because the K- eight group over here are female jokes the worst kind of audiences when you do like an all male business conference and it's all just guys and huts huts the worst because I tell my act to appeal to just a little bit of everybody you know. I'm a very happily married guy talk about that so that now I get a certain warmth of feel from this part of the crowd and he just learned it is it is like an officer you look out and you see this vast and you try to get a certain kind of laugh a certain certain feeling going and people walk away from the show and they like you because there are a lot of comedians that people think are real funny but they don't like the person they just think that guy's got some funny jokes may seems like a mean guy won and that's fine. That's your persona but that's not mine. You know the idea is if you if they like you you have a job. That's not that funny. They'll roll with you. They'll turn it over to you. Get to the next show. If that makes any sense you did twelve minutes to fourteen. Fourteen minutes of monologue jokes the whole time you were hosting the show. That's a quick Jillian jokes well. The thing you realize is there are only eighteen guests in the whole world mean anything anybody else's just filler reality star people or whatever and I always tell people whenever they i. I know some people have had daytime. Talk shows that failed the smartest one was Allen. Allen is a comic she comes out and she has something to say the there's value are you in her words because people now we watch this we will laugh and inevitably they are right. You know that's what it is. You've got you've got to entertain them. No I WANNA stare to see you there there to see the product that you manufacturer we'll wrap up with Jay. Leno when we come back from a quick break it's Bullseye for maximum fun dot org and NPR. This message comes from NPR sponsor smartwater. Smart Water is for the curious drinkers the ones who are always looking for ways to make things a little bit better. That's why smartwater created two new ways to hydrate smart water alkaline with nine plus h aunt smartwater smartwater antioxidant selenium and now you can order smart water by saying Alexa Order smartwater smart water. That's pretty smart. The world is complicated but knowing the pass can help us understand. It's so much better. That's where we come in. I'm Rhonda that Fateh unremitting at Blue. We and we're the host of through line. NPR's history podcast every week we'll dig into forgotten stories from the moments that shaped our world through line from NPR. Listen listen and subscribe now. There's nothing quite like sailing in international waters on my ship the SS biopic It's actually pronounced bio pic no yet dangerous. It's who says it's by okay. Oh pack because the words picture all right that is enough. I'm Dave Holmes. I'm the host of the newly rebooted podcast cast formerly known as international waters designed to resolve petty but persistent arguments like this how by pitting two teams of opinionated comedians against this teach other with Trivia and Improv Games of course winner takes home the right to be rights. What podcast be this troubled waters where we disagree. Disagree is Bulls Eye Jesse Thorn. I'm here with Jay. Leno he is of course he's Jay Leno. He posted the tonight show for decades. He wears denim shirts with blue jeans. He likes cars. He's hosting a show on CNBC. These days called Jay Leno's garage. It is a lot have fun. Let's get back into the interview when you're I run as the host of the tonight show and Ed you ended up hosting a ten o'clock show before the tonight show hosted by Conan O'Brien and by then I think you had made some like professional changes in your life in an attempt to avoid like I mean that you had like are you you didn't you weren't you didn't have an agent manager in age of twenty thirty five years okay and that was all gone by ninety two okay and I think part of your goal there was to avoid the kind of acrimony from and pain that had happened previously in your career well fire it was to avoid somebody's speaking for me right to me. I don't really care about the money. What are you GonNa do to settle this. WHAT DOES PROBLEM I. I'm one of those people. I don't like to go onstage unless every problem is solved problem solve. I have a clear conscience. I have a clear head. You know I believe in Karma. I believe what you give out. You get back every time. I've done something thing wrong or something against my nature. It's always come back at me tenfold in a horrible way and I always try to avoid that so it's like yeah. What are we GONNA DO I. I know even if I'm not at fault look. I apologize inside this happened. Can we move forward okay. Thank you very much to shake hands and everything has dropped for. Oh that's just my way. That's just an easier way. 'cause it's hard to do comedy when something's on your mind if you feel you've really hurt somebody or somebody some pain. Hey you wanna get that settled when he get that cleared up before you before you take the stage. Did you anticipate the pain that came out of. Have you taken that ten o'clock. Show know what it was was they were going to give that show the they'd come to me once when I'm just sitting there one day and oh combines. Oh Okay we want you gone. I say but guys I'm stuck here for five years okay so you had in other. You had a for people who don't remember didn't know you had a deal to you had to basically a five year contract to finish to do the tonight. Show I think the idea coenen basically to keep CONAN around. They gave him a five year contract with the promise that at the end of the five years you will take the tonight show. That's what what it was. That's what it was yeah yeah but then at at the end of that you took you took a show at Tan well what it was was Connor was doing great at twelve thirty thirty then Craig Ferguson came on and then Craig Ferguson started to do well in some cases may have been got an early actual numbers but okay okay then that were came to me and they said you think you'll go to ABC or something. After this leaves I said well. I'M NOT GONNA lie to either talking to me. They want to move over there. I said how about a ten o'clock show. I said well it's ten o'clock. Show won't work. It's I think that'll work and they said well. I'll tell you what we'll pay your staff the next year and a half whatever it is guaranteed them everything and everybody in my staff. I had the same people for twenty three years. I I don't turn over writers. I don't turn over over produces. My thing is he's treat people right. You can make a good army out of anybody can make a soldier out anybody if you treat them properly my thing. I always got there at seven thirty hours the first one in the last one out and I have my office is dead in the middle of the the room it wasn't you know the executive producer had the room the bathroom and all that kind of stuff because I just sat down. I wrote jokes. When people saw okay then they appreciated the fact that I was putting the same amount of time as they were and anybody buddy anybody could stop the train when I did it? They could just pull the cord and go okay. What's the problem. Is You know my apple got stolen either figure I. Let's take care of the Apple. Okay Stop the tonight show. Show you know you have some fun with it. I can't wait but people we treat everybody with respect so when it came along near the last couple of years we we have to salary I took a salary cut to keep everybody on board so they all like that and when they when they heard if I took it ten o'clock show they can all work for another a year and a half they said would you do. I said let's do it so we did it. Fox are ABC. I mean the the there were other networks. That would have fired you to host an eleven o'clock. I know L. but you know would've would've gladly brought your staff with you as well. I'm sure well no see my staff couldn't have gone because they they all have individual contracts with NBC NBC and they could've gone taken somewhere else or it. Wasn't that easy and plus. I'm a very loyal person. I'm the you know. The you have is probably going to be better than the one you're GonNa get and that was always my thing. I I liked the executives I work with the ones making the top decisions. I didn't know but the ones that Ha- all right so okay so they'll do a ten o'clock show okay fine so clock show and that starts another whole thing problems I got had accused of because shows like law and order and stuff for non anymore and then that was that was my fault and I was this was this was a big deal. Well Yeah Plan. NBC's was a big swing for them and their idea was cut costs yeah and then it producing big dramas at ten o'clock do a earlier version of the tonight show. I mean I remember them. I just happened to have read an article. not happened to. I was researching for this article. Well I read an article in the in the maybe the New York Times or something from from the time that that quoted in an NBC executive saying like look don't don't quote me on this asked but if he did a one point five we'd still come out ahead which you know this was when network television still doing pretty good numbers but their their their idea was that because it was so much less expensive to produce it would be you know you wouldn't have to you know you'd have to do pretty good a few million people to watch but yeah well the thing that really screwing curtis otherwise the local affiliates complained because there's a bad lead in the eleven o'clock news so they wanted me to move the monologue to the end of the show so people would say watch the monologue go rhino well that does it work stupid idea so the whole thing sorta went down the tubes and and then Conan show is not doing that well either which somehow was my fault. Apparently you know well. I mean for this. I mean the further in part I mean in in part because our lead in show he's trying to figure it out but also in part because you know for the same reason that the affiliates wanted a strong lead in the news right like they're just were a lot fewer people watching a talk show then might have been watching on or let our numbers were. We had bad lead INS when I was doing the tonight night shows. I mean you know when you get these shows. Your job is you're supposed to be able to pick it up on your own you know but calling on the air for what five months before we came along so the ratings were it opened initially well but it it. It didn't hold on very well so it. It was an awkward time all all around. I guess you'd call. Did you ever talk to Conan about it. No I never did I don't really know him. That wasn't like David. I don't really know I always felt there. There was when I would watch the show they would. They had a character a little Jay and then they make fun of headlines and all this kind of okay well. It can make fun of me. That's fine you know. They're waiting for the day you know. I went to donal Myer. When Conan was on literally a week to week renew on. I said just pick the guy up for years so they can relax. Everybody can do their job. He'll do fine and he was funny. I liked CONAN. I thought he was good so I was stunned as anybody when that whole thing oh you're being really nobody nobody said a word to me and we never spoke about it and that was that was pretty much if you had to over would it have been better to just take the same money from ABC and doing eleven o'clock show up against Conan. I mean you're probably to some extent still the bad guy in that situation because you're petitional. You know the Nice thing about making mistakes. Is you learn from them so I wouldn't change anything feel. Would you do this differently. No because mistakes give you you empathy for people you know I remember when I was when I was watching the cosby trials and all that stuff that was going on here these people these women are stupid. They should've of now well. No you don't because you when you were a kid. When you're young person you don't really know you know I remember being ripped off and lied to and when I was when when I was a kid and I knew was being liked to as it was happening but because won't maybe there's some maybe he's not no. He is so no so I I think mistakes. Make you smarter make you stronger so I wouldn't do anything differently and actually turned out fine for me. What would you say it was mistaken. What did you learn from it. the mistake okay. I was in Boston and I went to a club. I meant I meant in in the situation. When you host the Jay Leno show in what I would have done differently. I know what I could have done differently. as I said I didn't have a manager or an agent. I I didn't know that's a mistake or not. It saved me a huge amount of money just because I didn't have anybody but no I don't know what to me. You Rise and fall on your own ability awesome what people think of you. I mean I'd like to think that I was funny and I was easy to work with and never missed a show didn't throw tantrums trump's so NBC new okay. This guy's pretty reliable. Put Him back in eleven thirty. We'll we'll see what happens you know so and that that's what happens so it actually worked talked quite well. If you imagined what your comedy is when I mean I'm guessing that you're not quitting because you show no signs of slowing down the have my stroke. I'm sure but if you imagine what your comedy is when you're eighty two years old. I don't imagine it's much different I mean you try to be reasonably hip to you know you don't. I WANNA be talking about Reagan's trip to Pittsburgh. People what what but that's that's the. Nice thing about going out and working because you see comedy. You can't quit. I give Eddie Murphy a lot of credit man. He is coming back and he's going to do a big netflix special. It's hard to stay off the road for fifteen or twenty years because because your instincts suggest you have things you just you don't even know you know I the way I would practice is I used to say my act and then try to write a letter with my with my hand while I talked and see if it made any sense and I got to the point where I could write a letter and talk and that allows you to compartmentalize. I can think of an ad Lib about this subject while I'm talking about what I'm talking about. When I turned to that guy it looks like it just came up with some ad Lib but actually took a minute or two just think about what is going to you. Say you know so. You've just gotTa keep doing it. Musicians know off the road for ten years and then come back with an album. Oh my God but you can't with comedy comedy. You've got to constantly keep doing it. You know I mean a classic example that was I did all the material in this last tonight. Show with Jimmy Fallon and I read a blog where Leno say material. I Assam two weeks earlier. It's a comedy magical break in that material in well yeah. It's still new material you gotta do it. Somewhere like like somehow wasn't new. I the two weeks earlier you're busted J. Hilarious doing material more than once well Jay Leno. I really appreciate you come back on and Wednesday night. Don't worry we'll we'll have tied yeah. We'll have tons of stuff and I really enjoy the show. It is a really thanks thanks. I appreciate that thanks for taking the time I appreciate that. It is a fun car. Show where you do cool fun car stuff that I wanNA watch where the host hasn't assaulted did any of his employees Jay. Leno his very fun show especially if you like cars is called Jay Leno's garage it airs Wednesday nights on CNBC. It's also streaming in now on CNBC DOT COM. That's it the end of another episode of Bullseye Bullseye his produced at maximum fund dot Org World Headquarters Overlooking Macarthur Park and beautiful Los Angeles California. The show is produced by speaking into microphones. Our producer is Kevin and Ferguson. He and I offer a million. Thanks to our friend. Resume on of all in for filling in for Kevin Kevin Woods away who did an amazing mazing job. Kevin's got big shoes to fill. This is on you man. There's competition now. Kevin in the is this could be it for you. Buddy Kevin's got park update for you. He's glad to be looking out into the park again. Taking taking in the the sights sounds and hustle and bustle of what he calls the Big City Ambrosio is our associate producer. We had help from Casey O'Brien O'Brien. Our production fellow is Jordan. Cowling are interstitial music is by Dj w also known as Dan Wally our thanks to Dan our theme song is huddle formation by the band the go team they are a great man you should buy their records are thanks to the go team and their label. MEMPHIS industries and before you go. Did you know that Bullseye has has been around forever and a day. We're coming up on twenty years I didn't I started this show when I was not bald. That's how long ago it was. You can't see me but I'm bald now. we have hundreds of interviews with incredible guests so Let's say you're interested in the late night wars why not check out my conversation with the Great Jason Jason Cinnamon the biographer of David Letterman or why not check out my conversation with Andy Richter from the Conan O'Brien program both of those are available to you free in our guys you can check all of our past episodes on our website at maximum fun dot or find them in your favorite podcast APP. 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