The big brass at Cracked have been on me to cover the new Jay Leno Show for a while now. Their argument was that Cracked is a humor site and therefore needed to cover any and everything related to comedy. I agreed sincerely, I just didn't know what Jay Leno's new show had to do with that. Words were thrown around. Words like "contractual obligation," for example and, long story short, I watched a bunch of Jay Leno this week.
Now, if you're like me, whenever you're watching something that isn't A) funny B) porn or C) The Dark Knight, you have no idea what to do with yourself. I mean, the rules for how to watch most comedy shows are pretty simple ("laugh") but The Jay LenoShow isn't like most comedies, and it certainly isn't The Dark Knight, and I'm almost positive it's not porn. So, if you are for some reason forced to watch The Jay Leno Show, how do you do it? Well, here are a few ways.
The Jay Leno Show Drinking Game
There's really one rule for The Jay Leno Show Drinking Game.
Honestly I don't know what could possibly even be in that box, but there you go, it's a game. I tried it out last Tuesday with the intention of documenting my experience for you, the Cracked audience. I was found by my landlord Wednesday morning, absolutely destroyed by alcohol poisoning (the paramedics said there was more Jameson than blood in my veins). Apparently I passed out around 10:08pm and when I blew into a breathalyzer I got an infinity symbol, even though it was the next morning.
Don't play The Jay Leno Show Drinking Game, is my point.
The Puppy Torture/Mindwipe Showdown
The Puppy Torture/Mindwipe Showdown is a method I've personally employed for a while now. It is, to date, the most effective way to evaluate the merits of jokes, regardless of how unorthodox it may at first seem. The way it works is simple: Consider this puppy.
What a tired little man you are!
Think about that puppy. Really take him in, he's got a whole life ahead of himself. Hopes, dreams. For the sake of argument, let's say that he coos when he gets his belly rubbed and that he loves you unconditionally.
Now, whenever you hear a crappy "joke," consider what terrible, heinous and previously unthinkable violent crimes you'd commit on that puppy if it meant that you could un-know the joke, as if the joke was wiped from your mind completely. Some jokes are bad, but not so bad that you'd strangle this puppy if it meant un-knowing them. Other jokes, conversely, are. Make sense? Great.
Using the Puppy Torture/Mindwipe Showdown Method during The Jay Leno Show is a nice way to pass the time while you're not laughing.
Huh. I guess that's a joke. Sort of calls out Obama for his use of social networking and new technology. Doesn't totally make me laugh in any way, and it's particularly disappointing that he gets paid millions of dollars, has a staff of writers and he opened the show with this joke.
I guess I'd probably let that puppy go a day without food, if it meant the mark of that joke was stripped from my memory.
This is such a typical Leno thing to do, and it's so aggravating. That's not a joke. It's not a joke, it's just an observation, and it isn't even a sharp observation. Pointing out that people would lie to the DEA about drug use is exactly the observation that any moron off the street would make, that's the immediate reaction. There's no effort in that, no work, no thought, no connection is made. The audience is only clapping because Leno's echoing their immediate, knee-jerk primate response to the set up. They're just letting their hands shout "I ALSO THOUGHT THAT."
I might be OK with breaking at least two of that puppy's legs.
Well that was pretty awful. But something stuck out to me, the whole scene felt very familiar. I thought back to the night before, my most recent run in with near-death with The Jay Leno Drinking Game. Something about this joke felt vaguely reminiscent. So I went to NBC.com and rewatched Tuesday night's episode. Check out this joke from Tuesday's monologue.
Same headline, same weak-ass butt jokes. Goddammit, if you're going to spend two days milking the same freaking news story, at least make decent jokes out of it. I can understand resurrecting a headline for the sake of making an awesome joke, but "Ass Qaeda"? Really? You just had to get that out of your system. You finished Tuesday night's show and then thought "Oh, shit, I should have said Ass Qaeda. We've got to go back!" Your show is on daily. What's the logic in being out-of-touch and a day behind?
And, Jesus, Kevin, what the hell's the matter with you? You almost never talk and, when you do, you only want to talk about ass bombs. Seriously, those were like the only times Kevin really wanted to speak up, and those were the only things he said. What the hell, man?
Anyway, that joke was a shithouse. I shaved the puppy bald and shoved it into traffic.
Jay briefly pauses his monologue to bring us a pre-taped segment called "Great White Moments in Black History." A black guy comes out and says "On May 14, 2008, the white president of Vh1 cancels Flavor of Love." And that's it, that's the sketch. I don't know if Jay's trying to show how diverse he is by proving he knows a non-Kevin-Eubanks black guy, or if he's just trying to highlight his timeliness by attacking a crappy reality show that was canceled two years ago; either way his audience loved it. This was like a Chappelle's Show sketch, but if Dave Chappelle was a chubby, out-of-touch white guy. Oh, hey, that's exactly what it is. Come on. You're Jay Leno. You interviewed the President, you could probably have a writing staff of anyone in the world. You're taking shots at Flavor Flav? And you're taking them now?!
Yeah, give me the gun, or the shovel or a scorpion or whatever. Whatever it takes, I will end that puppy. I'll make it slow and I will feel nothing.
Speaking of milking a headline, Leno's crammed a minimum of three Polanski jokes into every single monologue every day this week, and they're typically just as strong as the one above. My problem with his Polanski jokes is that there's just no thought to them. It's like he gets a Google News Alert every time the words "sex offender" are used, reads whatever headline pops up out loud and then mumbles "Roman Polanski," as if saying two vaguely related things near each other in a sentence is the same as saying a joke.
-"Have you heard this, have you seen this? I read that a convicted pedophile in Detroit hung himself in his cell. I wonder how Roman Polanski feels about that!"
-"Oh this is interesting, true story. The world's fattest sexual predator was released from prison today. But not the world's Roman Polanskiest predator!"
-"Mumblemumble child pornography grumblegrumble POLANSKI, amiright?!"
The puppy in this imaginary joke showdown took its own life in the hopes that all of Leno's Polanksi jokes would be wiped from the world's memory.
Oddly enough, the Useless Daydreaming Method of watching The Jay Leno Show is actually more depressing than the puppy torture thing. With Useless Daydreaming, you get to sit back and think about how great it would be if someone else had Jay's job...
You know who'd make a great talk show host? Norm MacDonald. If someone gave Norm an hour-long talk show every night, I guarantee you he'd make straight-up magic.
No one is more aware of cliches than Norm MacDonald, and no one is better at flipping and deconstructing them. He'd mess with all the stale conventions that modern late night talk show hosts for some reason feel forced to use, he'd have the best guests, because everyone in comedy loves him, and I bet he could put on some decent skits, too. He wouldn't let a bunch of celebrities pointlessly and heartlessly plug whatever project they were working on, he just wouldn't allow it, because he can't even give a shit. So many late night hosts try to ape a late night host of the past, like they're afraid of doing something new. But Norm MacDonald, man, he would tear shit up. Everyone just think about it, right now, think about what a Norm MacDonald-hosted talk show would be like.
Ooh, also I'd love it if Bob Newhart had a talk show.
Oh, also, speaking of things that are better than Jay Leno, I'd like to point something out. Let's imagine, for a moment, that The Jay Leno Showalways occupied the 10pm-11pm timeslot. Let's just pretend that, for a second. If NBC had always devoted an hour every weekday at 10:00pm (and this is just a small sample), the following shows would not have aired: Medium
Law and Order
Law and Order: SVU
Friday Night Lights
Makes you think about what shows today aren't getting a chance while we make room for Leno.
Watch Something Else
Yo, on Wednesday, they were doing an encore of Dexter's season premier and even though I already saw it, I totally watched it again instead of Leno. Have you seen it yet? OhmyGodSoGood. There were more shots of John Lithgow's ass than I think I was really ready to see, but I do feel those shots resolved a lot of questions raised by Harry and the Hendersons.
Speaking of John Lithgow's ass, the fact that I re-watched the season premier of Dexter instead of Leno is very, very telling. It means that I, as a pop culture-consuming human being, would rather watch a repeat of a show that I already know features gratuitous shots of John Lithgow's ass than I would a new episode of The Jay Leno Show.