Today marks Jay Leno’s last night of hosting The Tonight Show. What a great ride he’s had!  He’s one of the best TV Hosts in the business. Being a TV Host myself, I always watch other hosts not just for entertainment, but for studying, too.  I’ve learned a lot from Jay. He’s always been able to be funny and carry the show, but still be generous and inviting to his guests at the same time. He’s got skillz.

I had the pleasure of being able to attend the taping of his show in Los Angeles two times.  Both times were extremely funny experiences and since this is the last day of Jay Leno hosting, I thought now was a good time to share them with you.  My friend, we’ll call him “D,”  has had the hookup at The Tonight Show for a while since his friend works there. So, he’s been able to go many times and often sits in the front row.  Well one time D invited me to go, and he decided to “prep” me on what would happen while we were there.  Quick backstory on D – he’s quite the joker and is known for his Poker Face – he can tell you anything that’s definitely not true and if you look at him he makes you think that it totally and completely is. Quite the talent.  So, this is what he laid out for me about how the show would go:  he said we’d get there, hang out in a room for a bit, then they’d walk us into the studio and we’d take our seats.  Then Jay Leno would come out to greet the audience in an outfit of full denim – denim collard shirt, denim jeans (Hence the featured image above! Apologies for the blurriness – it’s the best one I could find!).  He would welcome us with a quick joke and then say, “Does anybody have any questions?”  At that point, D said that I have to be the FIRST one to stand up, shoot up my hand and ask if I can take a picture with him. D claimed that Jay would then bring me up on stage, have me sit at his desk in the guest chair, and he’d sit in his host seat to take a picture.  Now, this whole spiel sounded quite ridiculous to me and I didn’t believe D at all.  He claimed he was serious and even called his wife on speaker phone to verify that it was true.  What’s hilarious is she said, “Why are you calling me to verify this – does someone not believe you again?”  Ha!  He’s obviously got a track record.

The whole time until we sat down I was skeptical.  But I thought, ok – I’ll play along and if it’s not true, I’ll look like a bit of an idiot, but it could be a lot worse.  So, it unfolds:  we get walked in and sit in the front row.  Jay walks out in an outfit of full denim – denim collard shirt, denim jeans.  He welcomes us with a quick joke then says, “Does anybody have any questions?”   What?! So far D was right!  So – in a split second, I go for it – I stand up, shoot up my hand and say, “May I have a picture with you?”   And lo and behold, Jay says “Yes, of course – come on up here!”  I came up to where he does his opening monologue and he joked around with me for a few minutes (I even got to get in a plug about the feature film I had just shot!) and then he took me back to the desk to take a picture.  And voila – that is the picture you see below.

I couldn’t believe D was right!  He totally knew the drill.  I’m not a star-struck kind of person, so I wasn’t really looking to get a picture with him, I just wanted to have fun and see if I was caught in another one of D’s jokes again.  It always makes for a great time and we get some funny stories out of our escapades.

Well, now it was a game to me.  I had a friend in town a few months later, so D was able to get us tickets to go to the show again. So of course I had to see if I was able to pull this off again.  It was too funny not to try again.  So I tell my friend that we’ll be able to sit in the front row, and I tell him how everything will unfold:  Jay will walk out in denim, etc…. When they walk us into the studio, they start leading us along the VERY top row of the studio waaaaay in the back.  At this point I’m thinking they’ll just lead us down the steps to the front row.  Nope. They sat us in the very. last. row.  Crap.  How was this going to work now?

Have no fear.  So, Jay walks out, gives a joke in his full denim, and then says, “Does anybody have any questions?”  I stand up quickly and raise my hand really high shouting, “I do!”  And……Jay says “Yes! The young lady in the back.”  And of course I say, “May I have a picture with you?”  Jay says, “Sure! Come on down here!”  Hahahahaha.  Success ensued – we joked around and I got another picture.  Only sad news is that I LOST that freaking picture!!  Well, I’m hoping it’s temporarily  lost.  It’s gotta be around here somewhere.

I of course thought that it’d be hilarious to turn this into a huge game and see if it worked every time I went there.  But I haven’t been since that second time, and it’s probably a good thing since the whole crew would probably catch on at some point! How freaking funny would it be if I had ended up with this huge montage of pictures of me and Jay Leno?!  HA!  I obviously won’t be back for sure since tonight is his last show, but it was good fun while it lasted.

Without further adieu, here’s the infamous picture of me and Jay.  Side note – they take the pictures on one of those mini Polaroid cameras, and they give you the picture that comes out in about 1 inch by 1 inch size.  Unfortunately, the picture didn’t develop correctly as we were sitting there, so it was super dark and a bit messed up. But of course that added to the funniness of it all!  My friend tried to lighten it up, and this was the best he could do.  Ha!!

Thanks, Jay for being such a great example of a successful, talented host!  Cheers!

Abigail Cooper and Jay Leno