Rough Weekend for Leno, a Great One for Conan
By Mike Ryan Posted May 3rd 2010 05:15PM
Jay Leno. Yes, the same Jay Leno who earlier this year reclaimed his 'Tonight Show' desk from Conan O'Brien -- who on this very same weekend, was able to speak for the first time since his upheaval. It was a bad weekend for Jay, and a glorious one for Conan.
Leno took his stand-up routine to the White House Correspondents dinner in Washington, D.C. on Saturday night and his shtick -- which, already known to pretty much everyone that pays attention, doesn't play as well with the, ahem, more hoity-toity segment of our population -- didn't really go over as well with a crowd made up of journalists and Hollywood power players.
"And according to the Pentagon, Al Qaeda is in financial ruin," Leno told the crowd. "You know what broke them?" No, Jay, we don't. Why are they broke? "Health insurance premiums."
Meanwhile, as Leno strained to get laughs in front of the President of the United States, the following night the man who used to have Leno's job as host of 'The Tonight Show,' Mr. O'Brien, had an interview air in a time slot usually reserved for Presidents. O'Brien gave what was, by most accounts, a well-received interview to '60 Minutes,' explaining what happened a few months ago at NBC and his feelings toward Leno.
Perhaps Conan's buyout contract can be looked at as the reason -- O'Brien is not allowed to disparage Leno or NBC -- so, instead, O'Brien used a lot of hypotheticals to explain his side of the story. Even so, it's still obvious there is no love lost for Leno by O'Brien.
First, O'Brien couldn't even fathom the idea that Leno, after gracefully (at least publicly) handing over 'The Tonight Show' to him, would ever, some day, reclaim it. Said O'Brien, "I'm a paranoid person. And I think ... I'm the kind of person that can come up with lots of negative scenarios, but I remembered thinking that seemed like ... that was a stretch even for me."
Did Conan think Jay acted admirably? Again, speaking in a hypothetical, O'Brien admitted, "If I had surrendered 'The Tonight Show' and handed it over to somebody publicly and wished them well ... and then ... I don't ... would not have come back six months later. But that's me, you know. Everyone's got their own, you know, way of doing things."
Like Jay Leno's way. "Without [Obama as president], it might have been John McCain and this would have been an early bird dinner." ZING!
What's interesting here is that, sometimes, perception defines reality. In reality, Jay Leno got his way, his 10 PM show, 'The Jay Leno Show' bombed, so instead of moving on, he wanted his old time slot back. The guy won, no doubt about it. Though, his public image took a beating and Leno's 'The Tonight Show' ratings, though better than O'Brien's, haven't fully recovered. O'Brien, no matter what his motivations were for not wanting 'The Tonight Show' to be moved back to midnight, appears to have taken the high road in this matter. And, over the weekend, to see the two of them in a public setting again -- O'Brien was barred from appearing on television until May 1 -- it's painfully obvious who's winning the public relations battle.
Was Leno unfunny at the Correspondents dinner? He sure was. But, seriously, these are the same jokes he does every night on 'The Tonight Show.' It's just that Leno has become public enemy number on of late night hosts (fair or unfair) and Leno, doing his typical style of humor with little laughter in the background, is going to draw attention. Because, right now, it's fun to pick on Jay Leno (no, really, it is).
Put it this way: It's also fun to pick on the New York Yankees when they're down -- because the Yankees always seem to win and it becomes frustrating. So when there is a scandal -- take Alex Rodriguiez's steroid scandal from last season -- it's fun to pile on the "winners." To Jay Leno, O'Brien is the Boston Red Sox -- a team O'Brien is actually a fan of. But, just like the Yankees and Red Sox comparisons, when you compare Leno and O'Brien -- when you consider the money both of these guys are making, it's hard to "feel sorry" for either. Which is the last thing O'Brein wants, but, it seems, is everything Leno wants -- as Leno told Joy Behar last month, somehow he got "screwed." And that's very reason why we love Team Coco.
Conan O'Brien Snapshots
In this image taken from video and released by CBS, former "Tonight Show" host Conan O'Brien, right, talks with "60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Kroft, at O'Brien's Los Angeles home, Wednesday, April 21, 2010. O'Brien discussed leaving the "Tonight Show" and his feelings about the exit in the interview which airs Sunday, May 2 on CBS. (AP Photo/CBS) --MANDATORY CREDIT; NO SALES; NO ARCHIVE; NORTH AMERICAN USE ONLY--
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