I don't usually like to indulge in piling on, and I'm not really enjoying it now, but I feel I must join in the chorus of people who have stated out loud that Jay Leno really tanked at the White House Correspondents' Dinner Saturday Night.
It's not so much THAT he tanked.
It's the WAY he tanked.
I've noticed over the last few years that Jay has slowly morphed into Bob Hope.
Now, is becoming Bob Hope necessarily the worst thing in the world?
Not if you are talking about the pre-1960's Bob Hope, when Hope was quite wonderful.
But some time beginning around 1963, when he made "Call Me Bwana" and I'll Take Sweden", and those movies with Phyllis Diller, all bets were off.
His periodic TV specials were the height of laziness.
You could see him reading the cue cards in his monologues.
And he did topical humor that was squeaky safe.
I plan to write more about Bob Hope in general in the near future.
But this latter-day Bob Hope is the one that Jay Leno has completely morphed into.
The White House Correspondents' Dinner was the icing on the cake.
The material was the lamest I'd ever seen him attempt.
Very much in the latter-day Hope tradition.
He was blatantly reading from index cards.
Even on the Tonight Show, he did a much better job of not making you think he was reading the cue cards.
Although I don't know if that's still true.
I haven't seen the Tonight Show since he returned to it.
Not because I have an attitude.
Just because I have a lack of interest.
Instilled upon me by his excursion into Primetime.
Boy, when Leno first started out, he was brilliant.
I used to see him regularly in the 70's at the Comedy Store and the Improv, in his typical motorcycle jackets.
He was always devastating and totally cutting edge.
The beginning of the end was when they made him start wearing suits that actually looked good on him.
I'd never really seen Leno bomb before Saturday Night.
And you knew he knew he was bombing.
And he wasn't gracious about it.
It's the first time I'd seen him not be gracious.
He blamed the audience.
There seemed to be mutual hostility.
It must have been really embarrassing for him to be upstaged by that highly seasoned, much better prepared comedian, President Obama.
The older Hope got, the more rigid he seemed to be about his work habits.
He'd always surrounded himself by a plethora of writers, commandeering the writing table, being a very good editor of material, and gradually accepting weaker and weaker jokes.
He also was never home.
If there was a gig anywhere, he was there.
This is now the total definitive description of Leno.
The morphing is now complete.
I've mentioned before that in personal encounters with me, he was nothing but charming and personable.
But maybe I've only seen one side of him.
I saw Conan's interview Sunday on "60 Minutes".
There was a strong implication that Conan thinks Jay campaigned to get the Tonight Show back,
which is contrary to what Jay implied to Oprah.
I don't know who to believe.
But I DO know that Jay was found hiding in a closet, eavesdropping on the meetings determining whether he or Letterman was going to get the Tonight Show originally.
With very little to go on, I suspect that this is something that Bob Hope would do.
At least the latter-day Bob Hope.
But I'm only guessing.
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- mark rothman
- Hi. I am, according to my Wikipedia entry,(which I did not create) a noted television writer, playwright, screenwriter, and occasional actor. You can Google me or go to the IMDB to get my credits, and you can come here to get my opinions on things, which I'll try to express eloquently. Hopefully I'll succeed. You can also e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Perhaps my biggest claim to fame is being responsible, for about six months in 1975, while Head Writer for the "Happy Days" TV series, for Americans saying to each other "Sit on it."