Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno

Stay with me here, this entry doesn't have a whole lot to do with sports or cards, though there is a TENUOUS link which I'll share at the very end.

I live in Los Angeles and have now for more than half my life. I think we Angelinos tend to get a bit jaded living in the entertainment capital of the world; I don't care what Las Vegas thinks, more people actually see the entertainment that's created here than in their gambling burg. I think we get jaded because we tend to see the entertainment industry actually at work. A week doesn't go by where I don't see a crew filming a movie, tv show or commercial.

I've run into actors and actresses all over town, so many that I kind of forget who I've seen in public and who I haven't. A couple of weeks ago I stood in line behind Victoria Beckham at Toys 'R Us - she was buying a cart load of toys for her three kids (who were incredibly cute) and I was buying a single pack of basketball cards. The bodyguard tipped me off. In the past I've actually even worked as a filming liasion for a property management company. I managed to get quite a few things filmed on our property (and therefore lucrative location fees for my bosses), including a Coke commercial, the feature film Town & Country with Warren Beatty and Natassja Kinski (both of whom I got to talk to) and an episode of MTV's "Senseless Acts of Video" where Tony Hawk did a skate jump from the roof of one of our buildings to the other. That was a fun day, and maybe some day I'll tell that story.

You also run into people who are either currently working in the "biz" or have worked in the "biz". Hell, my WIFE worked in the industry for about a year as a costume maker for a costume house. She worked on Magneto's coat for X-Men 2 and on costumes for the first season of "Star Trek: Enterprise". Sometimes you meet former-actors, as my wife's first landlord was. Sometimes you meet current actors or comedians: I just met Max Perlich last week, and I've met several comedians from "Last Comic Standing".

Today I got to meet Jay Leno.

My downstairs neighbor and friend used to work as the receptionist for "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno", and she loves The Cure. When she found out that they were playing on the show TONIGHT, she made a call and got some tix.

We just got back from the taping, and it was freaking awesome. The other two guests were these nobodies, guys you've probably never heard of.

Frank Caliendo

and Tom Cruise

Oh and since we went with a former employee, we got the VIP treatment. We didn't have to wait in line, in fact, we were escorted back-stage to the Green Room since we were on "Jay's List." I did get a brief glimpse of Mr. Caliendo in his dressing room, but we were told very firmly "Do not speak to the guests, especially Mr. Cruise." Which was fine with me. I wouldn't have really have anything to say to him, since I really don't think he's that good of an actor, and there are very few of his films that I personally like. But that's me, there's no accounting for my taste.

On the way to the Green Room we were given a signed 8x10 of Jay, which I scanned below. Pretty damn cool if you ask me. My wife actually has met his wife Mavis through her job: Ms. Leno had a gown made by my wife's company for an event that the Leno's give every year, and as she has dealt with a few other celebs (Jeff Probst from "Survivor" is actually my wife's boss's next door neighbor and when he goes to awards shows he wears a tux that they made) I've begged her to get signed photos of anyone famous and she ALWAYS says no.

We waited in the green room until a page came and got us and showed us to our seats, which were VERY, VERY good. The studio itself is actually quite small, it seats 350 I'm told, which is a very small audience, but larger than most talk shows. It looks a LOT larger on television, and I'm sure when I get around to watching the show tomorrow I'll have an even better perspective.

The show was great. Jay still does his own warmups, so he came out about fifteen minutes before the show. He takes polaroids with a few audience members and chats with them about where they're from and makes them feel special. From what I've gathered, what you see with Jay is what you get, he's an incredibly nice guy who doesn't have a mean bone in his body. He really makes everyone feel welcome too.

The former "Stuttering" John Melendez is the show announcer and after Jay warms up the crowd he does a shtick where he reads the rules (no cell phones, no cameras, don't rush the stage, etc.) and he threw caps, towels and footballs in the crowd. Then they have a miniature talent show where people from the audience get up and do something to get free swag. We got to see a guy tell a very bad joke, a woman sing a Cure song and a guy do the opening of HIS former TV Show in Japan.

Then the show starts and it's all done in real-time, they call it "Live to Tape". If you've seen one show, you've probably know what I'm talking about: Monologue, "comedy segment", Guest #1, Guest #2 and Band. The monologue was good tonight, lots of stuff about the Governor of Illinois, and quite a few chortles. There's also a couple of groaners, and if you watch, you'll know exactly which ones I'm talking about. The comedy segment was "Pumpcasting" where they go to a real gas station (the Costco down the street in Burbank) and they set up a two-way broadcast in the form of fake news. The anchor (who was Timothy Stack, a frequent guest start on "My Name is Earl") asked questions of the befuddled gas pumpers who couldn't figure out why the television on top of the gas pump was talking to them. There's actually a very funny moment at the end of the segment with another gas pumper.

Tom Cruise came out, and boy is he a LOT shorter than I thought, and I'm pretty sure he was wearing lifts too. Jay is a BIG guy, 5'11" which is what I usually tell people I am (though actually I'm barely over 5'10"), and Tom was several inches shorter. He's also very skinny, but I'll tell you, I know why he's a movie star now, that damn smile of his is certainly charismatic. You see that in person, and see how personable he really is, and you wanna like the guy.

In between segments with Tom he came up into the crowd and shook peoples' hands and briefly chatted. He had an extended conversation with the folks behind me one of whom was a pilot like Tom, so that was very cool, because he was about three feet away from me. Tell you what, Movie Stars dress well too.

I thought Tom was short, Frank Caliendo is TINY in comparison, he's only 5'7", which is what the IMDB has Tom listed at, so I'm sure he was wearing lifts now. Caliendo does a great Leno, and did so on the show several times. He did Madden a couple times and was basically funny as hell. In fact I wish Jay had spent more time with him, because he was cracking me up. It was so loud that I missed several lines too.

We were there to see Robert Smith and The Cure play live, which was fantastic. They did "Perfect Boy" off their new album and it rocked. I've never actually seen them live before, so if I don't ever get the chance, this was good enough for me.

After the show was over we were brought on stage and got to meet Jay, and he took a picture with the three of us, that we'll get signed in the mail in a few weeks. Again, Jay was incredibly kind and chatted with both my wife and our friend Lani, since you know she used to work for him. We were then whisked upstairs for a tour of the offices and so that Lani could catch up with some of her former co-workers. Didn't see anything spectacularly cool, though I do love the freedom that the show-workers have with the decoration of their cubicles. As cool as I think it might be to work in the television industry, I've had bigger cubicles before, theirs were TINY. I did get a look at the "Big Board" of upcoming shows, but I can't say that anything really stood out as memorable. I heard some interesting gossip about Jay's upcoming move to the 10 O'clock timeslot, but I was sworn to secrecy, so I cannot spill. Besides, it's not really that exciting.

So that was my afternoon. Pretty nifty I think. Just for shits and giggles, here's the only Jay Leno trading card that I've ever had in my possession, a WCW card from when he and DDP wrestled Hulk Hogan and Dennis Rodman. Unfortunately I no longer own the card, since it was in a set I sold on eBay a short while ago. Had I the forethought I might have bought another one to get signed, and I probably could have too, but I've already got one auto, and another on the way.

This one is on eBay right now, for WAY too high a bid I might add. ESPECIALLY for a cut signature of a LIVING person.

Oh, and the sports link? There were a couple of Pittsburgh Pirates players in the Green Room. I'm not sure which ones, since I didn't want to bother them, and let's face it, I don't follow the Pirates, so I wouldn't know who they were, and I don't think asking people who they are is appropriate or respectful. Not in the Green Room of "The Tonight Show", I want to be invited back.


Wax Heaven said...

Wow! That is freakin' awesome. Congrats!

Christine said...

Sounds like an incredible experience. Wish I had caught last nights show. Only time I've seen Leno in person was at a convention event with tons of people.

William Noetling said...

I just started to watch the show from last night.

Couple things I noticed - I think they "sweeten" the audience reaction to the jokes. It's a tactic used in Wrestling all the time, they add fake laughter to the real laughter to make it sound better. I noticed several times that jokes I recalled as being kind of flat got better reactions as aired.

I know how they make the studio look huge now: they shoot certain shots from very high angles from the very back rows, and the optical illusion makes it look bigger.

Chris - Glad you found the blog. Conventions can be great places to meet and mingle with celebs without feeling weird. IN fact most of the "celebs" that I've met are at cons, because for some reason I don't feel bad about talking to them when they're at a booth getting paid to mingle with the people.

The San Diego Comic Con used to be a great place to meet B-List actors and other minor celebrities, though it's grown too big in the last 10 years.

But here's the really cool thing, if you, Mark and the kids do come visit us for any length of time, we can probably get tickets to the show, or the new show after next year. Unfortunately no children are allowed at the tapings, so we'd have to get baby-sitters.

It's funny too, Lani said "I can't imagine who would actually want to go to the Tonight Show" on the way home, to which both Mel and I said "Oh, I think there's a TON of people who would love to go." She underestimates because she's jaded from working there.

Gellman said...

I went to the tonight show a few months back and had a great time, Jay is much funnier off camera. I love the Cruise stuff, that is really funny. Lifts, pfft, scientologists can change their height at will. He could be 8 feet tall, but that is too egotistical.

Anonymous said...

In all my time working at KNBC, I never once bothered to get tickets to see Leno. Strange, considering how much I love the Tonight Show!

Sounds like you had fun. Sweet!