Top Five: A ‘Tonight Show’ Monologue Rises to the Top

by | June 16, 2012 at 11:48 AM | TV News

We watch more TV every week than we care to admit (what can we say? We make our living this way!), and then, at week’s end, we try and remember the things we liked the most in order to assemble this Top Five.

Well, when we thought back on the week that just was, we consulted our handy bedside notebook and came up with Jay Leno’s monologue from this past Wednesday.

And so, all things considered, we’re making this monologue the top item in our Top Five this week. Why? Read on and find out.

1) The fine art of comedy: Though we watch them almost every night, we don’t always care for Jay Leno’s monologues, particularly in the last few years. In that time, it seems to us, the “Tonight Show” monologue — one of the most storied segments in all of television — hasn’t been as sharp as it once was. And we generally blame the time off Jay was forced into when NBC gave the show to Conan O’Brien and Jay was shunted off to prime time. But once in a while, Jay’s monologue still does it for us.

A case in point was this past Wednesday’s monologue, whose jokes actually made us laugh out loud — which is a relative rarity. One of them went like this: “China is now preparing to send their first woman into outer space,” Jay said, “which at first seems like a feminist breakthrough until you realize she doesn’t wanna go!”

Yes, laughing at a particular joke really depends on one’s taste. But for some reason, we liked that one, and a bunch of others. Maybe you will too.

Watch Jay’s monologue from this past Wednesday, at the start of “The Tonight Show” here:

2) The king of late-night: Ever since Johnny Carson left the late-night scene in ’92, no one in late-night has taken up the “king” role. Based on ratings, we suppose it would be Leno, but even he refuses to accept that, preferring that Carson be remembered that way for, essentially, forever (and whether Jay’s modesty on this subject is false or not we can debate some other time). But for our money, if we’re talking about late-night guests and not hosts, Martin Short is probably late-night’s current king. This guy has raised the late-night guest appearance to the level of high art.

And this week’s appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” was no exception. Watch this:

3) An unknown comedian on a late-night show — imagine that!: Speaking of late-night traditions, once upon a time, late-night TV — Carson’s “Tonight Show” primarily — was a showcase for up-and-coming comics. A successful appearance on the “Carson” show could make a comic’s career and today’s top comedians — the ones old enough to have appeared on “Carson” — still talk about that watershed moment in their lives.

But in recent years, stand-up comedy has taken a backseat to the musical guests that fill the final segments on the late-night shows. But once in a while, a comedian gets a rare chance to perform on a late-night show. This past week, it was a comedian named Lenny Marcus, who we really liked when he appeared on David Letterman’s “Late Show.”

Watch this guy here, and behold the lost art of late-night stand-up:

4) Whatever happened to …?: Conan O’Brien. He’s still on TBS starring on his self-named late-night show called “Conan,” which originated all this week from Chicago. We watched a bunch of the bits he produced for the four shows he did from the Chicago Theater and we liked this one the best. In it, Conan tries to teach a group of first-graders about Chicago blues music.

Watch this bit from this week’s “Conan” here:

5) USA! USA! USA!: The march of USA Network dramas this summer continued this past week with the second-season premiere of “Suits” on Thursday. And since we happen to like “Suits,” we thought we’d give you an opportunity to watch the season premiere, just in case you missed it.

Presenting this week’s season premiere of “Suits,” compliments of USA Network:
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