Although there has been a lot of controversy over the host of the Tonight Show between Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien, I still think Jay Leno is one of the most down-to-earth people we have today. He’s a person that’s not to afraid to make fun of himself, even when the media constantly blows his chin out of proportion.
When you think of Jay Leno, you think of a big, smiley guy who’s just passionate about making others laugh. His jokes are also usually pretty clean compared to the rest of the comedians out there. You never hear him make the kind of deep racial jokes as you might hear with David Chappelle or drop as many “F-Bombs” as you hear might with Carlos Mencia. His jokes are also not as sarcastic as you might find with David Letterman or even to go as far as degrading with some of Conan O’Brien’s comedy. His jokes just make it feel as if you are a part of his family.
This is partially why he’s been the face of the Tonight Show for so long. To host the Tonight Show is a dream that every comedian has. Johnny Carson was the host of it for 30 years between 1962 and 1992. David Letterman who already had his own late night show at the time wanted to take this position when Carson retired, but NBC decided to go with Jay Leno instead – a gentle and unthreatening comedian. It took him a while, but his ratings eventually surpassed those of David Letterman’s.
It just shows how being a little nicer can make that smallest difference between getting the career of a lifetime, a dream that every comedian has. You can have great lines or be a good stand-up comedian, but to genuinely pull off a personality that makes people trust you and open up to you is beyond humor itself.
For example, you can always tell from the way Jay interacts with other people that he never comes off rude or arrogant, or in the manner that shows that he’s more superior that you just because he’s a big star. He just comes off as another playful and ordinary fun guy who enjoys meeting other people and wishes to get some good laughs from them.
I think the fact that he’s willing to greet people and engage with them shows that he doesn’t take his ego too seriously. Part of this is a lesson that he learned from when he was younger.
Being nice is especially important when you have a platform like The Tonight Show. It can’t be a bully pulpit or an ego booster. There’s a reason the show is called The Tonight Show with Jay Leno instead of The Tonight Show starring Jay Leno. It’s because of my mother. She thought saying, “Starring Jay Leno” would tell audiences, “Oh, look at me, I’m a Big Shot.” So I said to her, “Okay, Ma. How about ‘with Jay Leno’?”
It shows what a little bit of humility and niceness can do for us. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to sense people who have a “me vs. you” mentality. Although there may be many people who are respected for their direct determined attitude, sometimes they are unconscious of the people’s feelings that they may be hurting. In the end, we know that deep down we would rather spend an evening with a person who makes us laugh over a person who’s trying to run us out of business.
With that, I’ll leave you with something to think about in the words of Jay Leno on why niceness is becoming something more of a rarity these days, than something of a commonality.
When I was asked to be interviewed for the Power of Nice, I said yes not just because I wanted to be nice. I did so because I think it’s the right way to be. But today being nice is so surprising it becomes a news story. I recently told a joke on the show and got a letter from a woman saying she was offended by it. I called her to apologize and say that I was sorry if I hurt her feelings. For some reason, she contacted the newspaper, and my apology because headline news! We live in a society where common courtesy is so uncommon that it is treated as though you just save someone’s life by giving them the Heimlich maneuver.
So the lesson here today is be nice. Don’t worry about getting something in return, as usually karma will take care of that.