Hack /hak/ n. 1. a person who produces banal or mediocre work.
Is there anything more banal than being the millionth person today to tweet about how bad Jay Leno is at comedy?
Well, it appears Jay Leno’s actual last episode of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno airs tonight. As America’s celebrities say their tearful goodbyes it occurs to us you probably want to read LTB’s reaction to all of this.
Jay Leno was a great host, and it is sad to watch him go. There. I said it.
Comedians spend our lives surrounded by other comics. Our days are filled with snark and “irony.” Bitterness is industry lingo. Somehow, Jay Leno is at the top of the target list among the have-nots in stand-up comedy. It’s a popular pastime among comics who haven’t been seen by a lot of people to take impotent shots at joke thieves, bro-humor comics, Def Jam comics, and Jay Leno. One of these things is not like the others.
As Jay prepares to step from behind the most important desk in comedy let’s consider two things.
Thing 1 – Jay Leno is really good at what he does. Jay Leno is as entertaining to watch as anybody on late night TV. You want to know how I can say that? Because he consistently beat the shit out of everybody else who does that job. For some reason in America if a thing isn’t our favorite thing then we act like it shouldn’t exist. “Jay Leno does jokes that appeal to more people than just me and my friends? – Then Fuck Him, he shouldn’t have a job!” Whether he is your favorite guy or not he has/had/has always had the right to fight for his job because he has been really damn good at it.
Thing the 2nd – Jay Leno is the only pure stand-up comic to ever host the Tonight Show. It seems odd to say since the Tonight Show is famously the most important place on TV for stand-up comics through the years, but it’s true. Steve Allen was a radio guy, an actor, and a writer. Jack Parr was also a radio DJ, film actor, and game show/talk show host. The great Johnny Carson was practically born hosting shows on radio and then TV. Conan O’Brien was a writer then a host. Jay Leno was a stand-up comedian. He did stand-up comedy shows at clubs, bars, colleges, and strip clubs. Because of this, he has probably been better for the art of stand-up comedy than any other single person alive today. Feel free to debate the point, but come with names of people who have been seen by a larger audience, given more comics their big break, and lasted as long as Jay. Otherwise don’t bother.
Here’s an idea: watch the show or don’t. Enjoy it or don’t, but appreciate that a big thing is happening. Acknowledge that you’re not a media critic, and know that if you are you’re not as good at anything as Jay Leno is at hosting the Tonight Show.