Oprah Vindicates A Broken Hearted Jay Leno
Before Jay Leno sat down with Oprah, who knew that it wasn't Jay Leno's idea to retire in 5 years, when he announced it, and named Conan O'Brien as his successor? Who knew that he was sucking it up, and taking his lumps, as a loyal employee, after NBC told him they wanted to keep their golden boy, Conan O'Brien, by offering him the plumb of the Tonight Show in 5 years? Who knew that Jay was on a roll, at number 1, when he was asked to give up his dream job, and the premier activity of his life? Who knew that, despite his cavalier demeanor, it "broke (his) heart."
For me, that changed everything. No longer did I see Jay as the big kahuna, nudging out the underdog, O'Brien, Instead, I see Jay as the come back kid.
It is quite a complicated dance that went on between Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien, and it did not begin with a change in their time slots, it began with Jay's loss of his dream job, when he was at the top of his game. It began to the tune of the new kid on the block, with endless potential, and the staying power of youth. It began when the network decided to put their money on budding talent, over talent in full bloom — with an earlier expiration date . . . As a matter of fact, this entire mess stems from an effort to forestall the future, instead of allowing things to run their course. I hope NBC has learned — if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
NBC got the best guy. Because he was grateful for what he'd been given, and he stuck by the company, even after they disappointed him. When Jay was the big dog, he gave up, what he probably loves more than anything, except his wife, without a whimper. By contrast, after loosing 49% of the market share, Conan, refused to move over for a time slot adjustment, outing his employers and lambasting Jay, before taking 45 million dollars, for his trouble.
I learned quite a bit about Jay Leno during the Oprah interview, but before that, he got my attention when I heard that, in 1976, he picked his future wife out of his audience, at a comedy club in Los Angeles, by her laughter, "she laughed at all his jokes at the right time."
In his words, "as soon as I got off stage, I ran and just stood by the ladies room, until eventually she came by . . ."
A man who can hear his destiny in laughter, and who follows his heart to stand in wait, near the ladies room, in hopes of meeting the laugher, is a Cyrano-like man, demonstrating that Jay Leno takes his own advice "I always tell guys, look like a man, think like a woman."
It is unlikely that the NBC executives woke up one day, 5 years ago, with the bright idea that they should retire their number one player, to make room for a young and rising star. It is more likely that the young and rising star, helped them to reach that conclusion. It worked — but it just didn't work out.
Jay gave it up, when events didn't favor him, now it's Conan's turn, that's only fair. And who could doubt fairness from a man who “ spent half of (his) life trying not to disappoint (his) mother, and the other half, trying not to disappoint (his) wife;” and who could doubt the ethics of a man who believes that “a person should "marry (their) conscience.”
I'm sure he'll call Conan, when the time is right.