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Jay Leno Hates Me

Some years back, long before Jay Leno was the host of The Tonight Show but while he was a very popular touring comedian who could sell out theaters, my wife and I went to one of his shows in Dallas, Texas.

Before his show, Jay Leno liked me.

After his show, Jay Leno hated me.

At the time I was the Editor of a national concert touring industry magazine called PERFORMANCE and as such would get free tickets to all of the shows that came through town, whether it was music concerts by bands like Bon Jovi and The Ramones or comedy shows by comedians like George Carlin and Rodney Dangerfield.

One call to Leno’s management office and his publicist was more than happy to arrange for two comp tickets to be waiting for me at Will Call. Our seats were front and center.

Jay hit the stage promptly at 8 pm and for the next two hours he absolutely killed. There are some people who are not Leno fans and think he is too corny and not edgy enough. I prefer comedians who are more sarcastic and who don’t mind dropping the f-bomb during their set, but I also appreciate watching a master at work, and there is no doubt that Leno is a master at what he does.

The crowd laughed from his first joke to his last, and by the end of the show everyone was winded and out of breath.

Jay signed off with one last joke and as he soaked in the audience applause, he looked right at me in the front row, pointed his finger at me, winked and then with his thumb pointed over his shoulder to the backstage area. Apparently his management had told him a journalist would be at the show and so, in front of an audience of over 1,000 people, he was personally inviting me and my wife to come backstage to meet him in person. My wife smiled at me, suitably impressed.

We made our way backstage and a security person escorted us to Jay’s dressing room. Jay and I shook hands, he thanked me for coming to the show, and we even snapped a photo; that’s me on the right and the show promoter in the middle.

Next, of course, Jay asked the obvious question.

“So, did you like the show?” asked Jay.

Now, most headlining comedians do shows that are only 45 minutes, maybe an hour. It’s tough to come up with just an hour’s worth of material that will keep an audience’s attention. But Jay had done two hours of material. It was great from start to finish, and it was an incredible accomplishment for a comedian to be on stage that long. I was very impressed, and I told him so.

But apparently it didn’t come out right.

What I said was, “Man, that was a long show.”

Jay looked taken aback. There was an uncomfortable silence.

Very defensively, Jay said, “Well, the audience seemed to like it.”

And then he turned around and walked away.

My wife looked at me. She was no longer suitably impressed.

There have been many times in my life where I have said something that was meant to mean “A” but the person who I was speaking to interpreted it as “B.” I can’t be the only one who has had the words, “what I meant was,” roll off their tongue.

I think men, particularly husbands and boyfriends, are more familiar with this phenomenon than others. Having your significant other respond to your last statement with the words, “What did you just say,” is a clear indication that while you might have said “A” someone most definitely heard “B.”

I spent the entire drive home from the comedy show trying to explain to my wife that Jay had misinterpreted what I had said. She just kept shaking her head.

Since then, whenever we see Jay Leno on TV I will turn to my wife and say, “You know, Jay Leno hates me.”

And my wife will answer, “As he should.”

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