I haven't watched a full episode of "The Tonight Show" since Conan O'Brien's last. I just can't put my eyes on Leno — who I started watching shortly after his debut as host in the early 1990s, who was always my preferred late night comedy host (eventually tied with O'Brien), and whose autobiography I read as a teen — partly because of the whole fiasco with Conan and partly because the dynamic of his show just feels stale now. As in, more stale than it did before his departure in 2009.
Maybe keeping bits like I'm about to describe are part of the reason.
Sub-par contributions equal sub-par content
|I'm assuming this photo is courtesy of NBC, but I pulled|
it from a story at IndeOnline.com, the website for
The Independent in Massillon, OH.
He wasn't a guest on Monday's show. I guess he'll be on Thursday.
However, since I missed the opening and never found out who the guests were, I sat through almost the entire show. At the time I tuned in, Leno was just getting to the post-monologue, pre-guest routine. Being a Monday, it was "time for Headlines." This has always been one of my favorite bits.
Except last night's. Was. Dull.
And I suspect I know the reason why: Because there was nary a headline in the mix (maybe one, and it wasn't that funny). The entire bit was filled with typos or odd word-choices in material ranging from a spelling bee program ("Contestents"), menus ("Chicken Dick," "Fried Baby"), obituaries ("She spoke fluent Italian, but all of her children were too stupid to pick it up"), classified ads, and, mostly, advertisements ("Cheese Hurls, 99 cents").
All mildly humorous alone, but not enough to hold up on a nationally-televised comedy show when combined into an entire 5-minute segment. Heck, there weren't even any wedding announcements, in which the combination of last names sometimes makes for a great laugh (the "Rider-Long wedding" - Ha!).
My hunch: In a world where less-and-less people pick up printed editions of newspapers, coupled with a general decline in people watching TV, the pool of eyes catching typos in newspapers AND thinking, "Hey, that's funny! I should send that into Jay Leno!" is evaporating quickly.
I know from first-hand experience that there are probably more typos escaping notice in newspaper headlines and article copy than ever before (NOTE: That's not a dig at the fine copy editors and paginators I've worked with previously. Rather, it's a testament to the fact that when there are less eyeballs, and those eyeballs are required to be too many places at once, more mistakes get through. God and astute-readers know I've let my share of typos slip through.). To twist an old philosophical riddle about trees (which seems apropo as we're talking about paper): If nobody sees a typo and points it out, is it really a typo?
I can't weigh last night's Headlines against recent weeks' iterations, of course, an I'm unlikely weigh it against future weeks'. However, as print media-consumption and viewership of Leno's show decline among the younger demographics, perhaps it's time to put this bit — again, an admitted favorite of mine — to bed.