Tonight’s Show with Jay Leno
Erin McAuliffe | Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Jay Leno is a name that resonates with generations. His impressive career, work ethic and comedic enthusiasm have helped him engage with everyone from myself to my parents to my grandparents through an impressive variety of mediums.
These mediums include television, film, books, web series and live comedy, but Leno cited live shows as his favorite of the bunch during our phone interview Monday.
“Laughing is a communal experience; you need to share it with people,” he said. “How many times have you watched a movie in a theatre full of people and thought it was hilarious, and then watched that same movie alone in your house and thought, ‘Maybe that wasn’t that funny.’ That’s why I never did comedy albums or recordings because if you want to hear it, I’ll come to you.”
Lucky for South Bend, Leno is coming to us. He will be at The Morris Performing Arts Center tonight at 8 p.m.
Leno is familiar with South Bend, thanks in part to his enthusiasm for automobiles and South Bend’s industry connections.
“I’ve played Indiana a bunch of times, plus Indiana is the home of Studebaker and Cord,” he said. “A lot of people don’t know that Indiana rivaled Detroit for a while in automobile manufacturing.”
Leno actively pursues and shares this passion for cars in his web-based television series, “Jay Leno’s Garage.” The weekly program he does in collaboration with NBC and executive producer Robert Angelo explores the adventures that take place in his Big Dog Garage, a collection of cars and motorcycles staffed by a team of mechanics who tackle restoration and customization requests. The Emmy-winning show is available to stream for free on NBC’s website and YouTube.
The Internet serves as a growing and prominent television medium, with sites like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime all offering content online and even developing their own successful web-only series. When reflecting on innovative and modern strategies, Leno — who repeatedly stressed his disdain for millennials’ virtual culture — may not immediately come to mind, but he has successfully used the Internet to his advantage.
“The web allows for content relating to whatever you’re into,” he said. “With such a broad audience you can delve into specifics. If you’re interested in bird watching, you can go on the web and watch bird watching shows all day long — where as you might find one bird watching show on network TV at one in the morning.”
In this way, he can connect with and find fellow niche “motorheads.” However, Leno said he does not believe in fully abandoning our televisions for our Macs.
“TV will continue to dominate when it comes to events that are happening right now — The Super Bowl, a terrorist attack — anything with an immediacy to it is where TV will really excel,” he said.
He also doesn’t commend substituting the virtual for the tangible, reflecting on the tendency of many in our time of 24-hour accessibility to entertainment, communication and culture to avoid gathering together.
“I meet people all the time that say ‘I watched this comedy special and I didn’t think it was funny.’ And I say, ‘What did you watch it on?’ And they tell me they watched it on an iPhone — well, it’s not going to be funny on your iPhone,” he said.
It is in the live show environment that Leno thrives. He highlighted stand-up’s innately conversational nature.
“Stand-up comedy, or even singing, is the most basic form of communication: it’s just one person talking to another one — but delivering that to a group of people.”
This preference for real personal connections translates to the other work Leno does as well. Leno is involved in numerous service projects and charities. One that stands out, specifically in the feminist buzzword era we are in, is the organization Feminist Majority, of which his wife, Mavis, is the chair. The foundation works for women’s equality and against gender apartheid with a focus on Afghan women.
“Before 1996, half the doctors, lawyers and teachers in Afghanistan were women,” he said. “As soon as the Taliban moved in, they weren’t allowed to read. You’ve got 18- and 20-year-old women who are completely illiterate, who have never seen a doctor, who can’t go outside without wearing a veil — and that happened in one generation.”
In reference to the detrimental apathy of people, he brought up the recent controversy around Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The act had Leno reconsidering his South Bend performance, not wanting his presence at the show to be interpreted as support.
“Luckily there was an uproar and it was changed,” he said in reference to the amendment Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed April 2 that barred discrimination against gays.
He stressed the importance of fighting for what you want, as well as what you have.
His mentality on feminism is similar to what celebrities such as Emma Watson are speaking out about, but having Leno as a part of that movement has generations and people who may not be involved with the movement reconsidering their indifference.
“I meet women all the time who say, ‘Oh feminism, I don’t want to get involved with that stuff,’” he said. “And I say, ‘Really, do you like getting equal pay for doing the same job?’ And they say, ‘Yeah.’ Well that makes you a feminist. Sorry. All you’re asking for is equality.”
Of course, the issue regarding the job market that is most pressing to many college students isn’t what happens once they get there, but rather how to enter it in the first place. Knowing his quote, “Anyone can have a life — careers are hard to come by,” I asked for any advice he had for Notre Dame or Saint Mary’s students looking to land careers soon. He stressed the importance of a strong work ethic, referencing his dyslexia and need to work a little harder than his peers early on as increasing and developing his drive. He abides by the motto: “Just shut up and do your job” — ironic as his job is based on not shutting up.
He told the story of a recently graduated sound engineer he met in a line at “Loco Pollo.” Noting how polite and impressive he was, he hired him on the spot.
He emphasized, again, the importance of “getting off your ass and experiencing things” — being present for opportunities like the one mentioned above.
So there you have it all unemployed seniors: “get off your ass” and get to his show — and maybe you’ll get a job while waiting in line.
*On a Scene specific tangent, Leno mentioned that he opened for blues and jazz acts like Miles Davis, Muddy Waters and James Taylor and still enjoys this music. You can listen to the playlist we made below to hear Leno’s tastes for yourself.
He also would like it known that he “is not the biggest fan of Justin Bieber’s or One Direction’s music.” If this is his take on “hip college music,” we would like it known that neither is Scene.*