Today is the 40th anniversary of Jay Leno's first appearance on the Tonight Show. If you weren't familiar with the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, if a comedian came on the show, the goal was to get invited to sit on the couch next to Carson. It meant that you had potential. You had arrived.
For Jay Leno, it meant much, much more. The jokester would reappear on the show dozens of times to do stand-up. He'd eventually do fill-ins for Johnny when he'd go on vacation. In 1987, he became a regular substitute, hosting every Monday, as Carson wanted to take 3-day weekends.
In 1992, Leno replaced Carson when he retired in 1991. It was a big deal because everyone thought that original Carson disciple, David Letterman would be next in line to take the throne. But Letterman was considered too much of a loose canon and the more straight-laced team player, Leno was chosen.
|The two claimants to the Tonight Throne, 1979.|
I remember watching the first episode of Leno's Tonight Show. I'd watch it a lot but mostly because I was a huge fan of the music of Branford Marsalis, the leader of Leno's house band. For the next 20-odd years, Leno would host, retire, and return to the show as leader. But, now he's permanent retired as head of the Tonight Show.
Nowadays, I watch the Tonight Show regularly. But It's for Leno's replacement, Jimmy Fallon. He's more hip, more zany, and just much more personable.
|Promotional photo for Fallon's replacement of Leno|
as Tonight Show host.
Well, that's my look at my favorite year for today. But before I go, I thought I would share with you a video of the stand-up routine that won Johnny Carson's favor and turned Leno into a star.