I’m not a big fan of Jay Leno’s. I do remember a time when I thought he was hysterical, but that’s a dim and distant memory. I think he’s fairly dreadful as a talk-show host. What really puzzles me is this; he’s been beating David Letterman in the ratings for years now, yet no one that I know particularly likes him or watches his show.
Perhaps this will illustrate my point. Take a gander at alt.fan.jay-leno and alt.fan.letterman on Usenet (I know… I’m a geek). Right now it’s just after 12:30 Eastern. The Tonight Show was ‘live’, The Late Show was a repeat. Since I last checked (sometime earlier this evening) there were 42 new posts to alt.fan.letterman… how many to alt.fan.jay-leno, you ask? None, not a single one. And remember, Leno had a fresh show, Dave’s was a repeat.
I think that maybe it boils down to why people watch each show. I think people watch “The Tonight Show” for the guests, the whole “Hollywood” vibe the show exudes, its predictable and familiar style, it helps ease them off to sleep and… It’s “The Tonight Show”.
I think that people who watch “The Late Show” watch it for David Letterman, they like him, they like his style of comedy, they watch him as opposed to “The show”.
I feel like Leno is very “Hollywood”, with the nice polished facade, but it’s as though there’s nothing behind the facade. He comes across (to me, at least) as being totally superficial and devoid of any real substance or sincerity. Dave on the other hand, strikes me as very genuine person beneath the curmudgeonly, cranky facade. His opening comments on his first post 9/11 show, the final Warren Zevon appearance, Daves goodbye to Warren at the close of the show after Warren passed away, the heartfelt sentiments he expressed on the passing of his good friend (and one of my favorite comedians) George Miller… the way he quietly does countless good and charitable things that most people never hear of. Flying to Afghanistan then Iraq the last two years to entertain the troops on Christmas eve, for instance.
Contrast this to Jay Leno’s celebrity autographed Harley to be auctioned to benefit those affected by the tsunami… the tsunami was a month ago, but the bike still sits, very conspicuously center-stage, while Jay milks out every last drop of publicity. Jay does plenty of charitable things, my problem is in the fact that he always does them so publicly, making sure the cameras are rolling and never without the requisite press-release.