You’re BACK, baby!
I’m glad to see you didn’t take my advice (to be found elsewhere in these columns) and open with a pastiche of the Bobby Ewing shower scene (that WOULD have creeped me out) but rather, went with the Dorothy coming round in black-and-white at the end of “The Wizard Of Oz” option. Equally obvious – but acceptable.
But there were some problems, weren’t there? Oh sure, after that Coco business you FINALLY felt confident enough to take HOLIDAYS – I’ll bet Mavis was glad about THAT. Other people might have bought your story that you got bored resting – but Her Indoors knew better, right? But post-Conan, NO-ONE at NBC is gonna make THAT mistake again in a hurry! Your position is unassailable – at least, for now.
But you STILL had to sit behind that damn DESK though. THAT tradition is older and even more powerful than JOHNNY was. It was always “The Tonight Show WITH…”
Then again, at least you had managed to get rid of Menendez (sorry, MELENDEZ – Menendez were two brothers who didn’t value Mother’s and Father’s Days) – although you felt duty-bound to embarrass him one last time, in the opening of that first new show.
But therein lies your PROBLEM, Jay. You’re fine – but BLAND.
In Britain, “side-kicks” were unheard-of on chat shows (until we started copying you Americans) – but in The States, they have been a staple ever since Johnny went with Ed. (For a short while in the Eighties, The Tonight Show got syndicated in the UK – and Johnny was HIGHLY amused by a letter from a British viewer, which he read out on the show – “That bloke, Ed McMahon – what does he DO?”)
Thus Dave has Paul, Coco HAD Andy Richter – and so on.
But you never really WARMED to YOUR “announcer” – instead, like Dave, you struck up an ongoing dialogue with your band-leader. An excellent musician and a nice guy – but with a mind less nimble than your own, he was the perfect foil. Every Holmes needs a Watson.
However, even before your return to Late Night, you knew his days with you were numbered. As a serious musician, after eighteen years he had tired of playing INTROS.
And now he’s GONE. Along with Melendez. All you have is Rickey Minor – does he have a brother: Morris? (Almost all Americans won’t GET that reference – but YOU do, ’cause you’re a CAR guy – right?) But while Ricky may be a fine MUSICIAN – he’s no Kevin, is he?
It’s been several weeks and the rapport between you and he is NON-EXISTENT. The few pieces of by-play you’ve engaged in were obviously scripted – and they went straight down the DUMPER, didn’t they?
Which leaves you all ALONE out there. Sure, you’re a skilled gag-smith and your agile brain can always pick SOMETHING out of the interminable interviews with the vapid, self-obsessed bimbos and himbos who parade past you, to sell their latest offerings.
And every now and then, you will get a break – in the form of a Bill Maher or similar. Someone ELSE with a brain, who you can SPAR with.
But apart from THOSE guys, you are doomed to sit there – night after night – ticking over, with that endless parade of Hollywood stiffs. Your only relief being an occasional drive over the border, in one of those 200 clunkers of yours, to do a gig in Vegas. But they are SOFT numbers.
You are LOVED. No-one’s gonna heckle you THERE (if they did, the “clumsy boys” would throw them OUT). So even THAT is too EASY.
But Jay, you HAVE those clunkers (which you LOVE) – and more money than you could EVER spend. So why not do what you should have done after the Coco business? What KEVIN did. Walk AWAY.
Hell, you’ve proved your point. After eighteen years of fighting NBC suits to keep your job. Eighteen years of suffering ALL the indignities they threw at you. Now, you can say to HELL with them. Hit the ROAD. Sure, you’re over sixty now. But your mate Rodney Dangerfield – not to mention George Carlin – kept going ’til they BURIED them.
Okay, granted you’re not in Carlin’s league – but you’re better than Dangerfield was. Plus you have that eighteen years on the Tonight Show to back you. And if you QUIT it – you’ll have the self-respect you need to go OUT there and KILL those audiences. No one’ll say you’re a has-been.
And hell – if it proves too tough – you’ve always got those old bangers to tinker with…