Letterman weighs in on 'Jay Big Jaw Leno': Last night's late-night jokes, including Conan's and Craig's

“Well, once again, I did not get The Tonight Show.” With that rueful opening joke, David Letterman finally weighed in on the late-night shenanigans. “NBC is bringing back Johnny Carson — they’re putting him on at 10 p.m.”

Letterman was relentless, gleefully relishing these moments. Presenting an alternate-universe version of what went down over at NBC, Dave said, “[NBC] gave The Tonight Show to Jay ‘Big Jaw’ Leno… [but] he said, ‘Y’know, I’m having trouble staying up this late. Is there any chance you could put me on at 10 p.m.?” Letterman then offered some “free genius advice” to NBC:

Makes as much sense as anything else, right?

Dave was wonderfully unstoppable. He gave us a Top Ten list of “Signs There’s Trouble at NBC” that included, “Just gave 10 p.m. show to Snookie.” Letterman offered a terrific sight-gag, saying that things were so confused over at NBC, they were now airing “Nighttime with Chuck and Don”: Cut to a shot of Charles Grodin sitting at a desk, with Don King next to him cradling a guitar, Kevin Eubanks-style.

Letterman concluded with a question: “Do I still have a show?”

Meanwhile, Jay Leno kept up his curious tone of chipper bitterness last night: “Our show has been canceled. We’re fired again. [Except] the last time, we performed better than expected — that was totally different!”

Leno continued: “My people are upset. Conan’s people are upset. NBC said they wanted drama at 10. Well, now they got it!”

This, I’m afraid, doesn’t even make sense: NBC didn’t want drama at 10 — they wanted a cheap-to-produce talk show. Also, what’s with this “people”? Is this a weird, distancing reference to the hosts’ legal teams? Are you upset, Jay? Do you know whether Conan is? If so, say so, please.

Speaking of Conan, over on The Tonight Show, O’Brien walked out and said, “I’m Conan O’Brien, the new host of Last Call with Carson Daly.” Noting the earthquake that occurred in California, O’Brien said it “knocked Jay Leno’s show from 10 p.m. to 11:35.” Then he did his high-pitched-voice Leno impersonation, and offered another hilarious list of his options, which included, “Leave television altogether and work in a classier business with better people, like hardcore porn.”

Take note, Jay: That’s how you express your feelings and get laughs.

Craig Ferguson had, as always, some bluntly funny assessments to make during The Late Late Show. “You know the world is on its ass when David Letterman and I are considered the ‘stable’ ones.” “Conan apparently hasn’t decided what to do,” noted Ferguson. “Well, they are looking for a judge at American Idol…” (Smart minds think alike: Ellen DeGeneres’ same-day variation on this was, “I wish [Simon] all the luck in the world hosting The Tonight Show.”) Bonus jokes about Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck included below; Craig’s “TV Goes Nuts” segment starts about 4 minutes in:

Ferguson said with mock-huffiness, “This whole mess is a direct result of atrocious management by a once great American network. The networks just do not treat late-night shows with respect. For example, this morning my caviar was supposed to get here at 10:00 a.m. And it did not get here until 10:05, which completely ruined my massage.”

Craig concluded, placing everything in perspective (for now, at least): “What I am saying, I think, is, it is a bunch of middle age white guys arguing over who gets X-million dollars; who gives a f—?”

(Follow me on Twitter @kentucker.)

Comments (72 total) Add your comment
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  • Ken

    I liked Conan’s comment about NBC losing 200 million on the winter olympics next month and cackling with glee. I think he was only half joking at best. what a mess NBC has created. The word I wanted to to use contained the word cluster, but I will be polite.

    • Emma

      I kinda think that this mess is still good for late night in general. keeps it interesting.

    • Stephanie Tanner

      Conan is hilarious
      Craig Ferguson is hilarious
      Dave is Hilarious

      Leno needs to go away. He was a bland, mediocore replacement for Johnny Carson. His appeal is equivalent to comfort food to baby boomers. NBC should not be afraid to be without Leno, not much will happen.

      • Agree

        Hey Stephanie, I am a baby boomer who agrees with you totally, Leno is the king among my parents’ retirement home 70’s + age group, and Leno should just realize it’s over and take his crappy unfunny comedy and tons of money and be a man and leave the comedy to the genius of conan, dave, craig and even the two jimmys LOLOL

    • junierizzle

      I think Conan was brilliant last night. He was really funny. From his jokes it sounds like he might be leaving. He always makes fun of NBC, but last night the jokes had some sting behind them.

    • Lala

      The Winter Olympics joke was really great. Conan is awesome, and it’s too bad he’s getting completely screwed over. I don’t feel as bad for him as I do his staff and family that relocated 3,000 miles only to have NBC screw the pooch on the whole thing. Jay Leno seems like a nice guy, but his reign has ended, and he’s much more popular amongst older demographics. Ferguson is pretty awesome though. His “the world is on its ass when David Letterman and I are considered the stable ones” joke was great, and his whole humor and attitude in general is what keeps me up so late.

  • bryden13

    Conan bashing NBC made my night.

  • kp

    Conan killing it as usual, and I actually am starting to like Craig. Letterman is always funnier when he’s angry or smug.

    • Ferenanda

      This is a pretty aivcte conversation with us. We’re looking for national/ world picks that move the story forward so that we’re not just telling people the heart attack happened, but taking advantage of what newspapers do well in going to the meaning and impact. Those choices aren’t always available — sometimes nobody is writing the angle we want. Unlike Anders, I have gotten push back from readers, not just older readers either, who look to us to learn more about a story they have heard about on TV or radio. The theme to these complaints is that we’re putting unimportant stories on page 1 instead of major news. I have to say that in a couple cases I’ve agreed, but those were stories that were not all over other media the day before.W e’ve talked about the fact that the task is much more difficult than simply saying stories that have been on TV for awhile can’t be on page 1. Readers are looking for more on the Cheney story, the Hamas story, etc., than they’ve picked up in quick snippets of broadcast news. (News junkies are the minority, not the majority). But whether we expand our report on page 3, make local connections, look for fresher angles or break down the story for context and perspective, we have to do more than simply report the 18-hour-old headline.

  • Kiki

    i love craig ferguson! best host ever :)

  • Kiki

    i love craig ferguson! best host ever :) i’m not sure nbc can recover from this …. we’ll have to wait and see…

  • Samantha

    Jay must have one heck of an airtight contract with NBC. His show is not funny, and Jay is not funny… hasn’t been for years. Conan is brilliant and deserves his 11:35 spot. He’s earned it

    • DVaRmy

      agreed…what about Jay just going away like he was supposed to at the end of his contract?

      • But…

        *NBC* offered Jay a new contract for TJLS (2 years, option for additional 3 years) – and he signed it.

        So what about NBC honoring the NEW contract *they* signed with Jay?

    • Nikkido

      Was he ever funny????? I thought NBC made the bigger mistake by not giving Dave the Tonight show to begin with.

  • Shelly

    Ken, why do you have such a love affair for Letterman?? The guy is no longer funny….the 2 “jokes” you wrote in the 1st paragraph just proves how unfunny Letterman is. Bitter, rude and being inappropriate is NOT funny. Conan is NOT funny. HE should NEVER have been given the Tonight Show. He’s never been a stand-up comic and is not a “TV” person. He is good at writing comedy, but should stay BEHIND the scenes. Why NBC has kept him this long is shocking to me. If you want funny, then that would be Jimmy Kimmel (Fallon is another one that should NEVER have been given a talk show)or Craig Ferguson. I think Craig is a brilliant, talented and funny guy. But his cussing is getting out of hand and very unnecessary. He is so funny without it and then he starts cussing and it just takes all the funny away. If we continue hearing those bleeps (or those oh la la’s), I just might stop watching him altogether. He does not need to cuss to be funny.

  • Pleiades

    I loved that last quote of Craig Ferguson’s! So true!

    • LMN

      I couldn’t agree more. Jay hasn’t been funny in years. He agreed to an end date for his hosting TTS – he should have honored that, been a class act like Johny Carson, and went away. He clearly has no other skills. Pls Jay – just fade away!

  • JT

    Can somebody tell me how in the world Fallon beats Ferguson in the ratings? (Did I mention Jay Leno sucks, just wanted to get that in. He used the Never Believe your Contract attempted joke back when he screwed Letterman).

    • jo

      my understanding is that Ferguson has been beating fallon rather easily since Fallon’s 2nd or 3rd week

      • Q

        According to TVbyTheNumbers, Ferguson trailed by 4% last year (1.91m vs. 1.98m) but leads this year (1.95m vs. 1.40m). Ferguson did lose to Fallon on Friday in the 18-25 demo, probably because people fell asleep watching Conan with the TV on.

      • polo

        i think theyre comparing it when conan was still hosting late night. fallon didnt start till march i think.

  • KenB

    Never should have made Leno leave in first place

    • Elizabeth

      They didn’t: he announced his retirement.

      I wish people would quit treating Jay like he’s a victim here – you can’t announce your retirement two years in advance and think your employer is just going to sit around and not have a contingency plan.

      • Lawgman

        Not true. He announced his retirement a few years in advance because NBC set a start date for Conan on the Tonight Show. They just didn’t want to lose Conan so they offered him the job at a future date (and they didn’t give him a fair chance).

      • Q

        Elizabeth, I agree. He said he wanted to leave and then basically pulled a Favre and changed his mind. Conan is getting jerked around. Jay created the concept of late night drama and continues to find new and shameless ways to exacerbate it. Conan, move to Fox and move back to NYC!

      • Mike O

        It wasn’t Jay’s idea to retire. In 2004, NBC announced that Conan would replace Jay in 2009, since that’s what Conan’s contract said and NBC would have to pay him a bunch of money if he didn’t get the Tonight Show slot. At the time, Jay seemed to go a long with it, but five years later, Jay’s rating continued to be high and Jay wanted to continue his TV gig. Not wanting him to go to another network, NBC came up with the prime time show idea.

      • bri

        Eliz.–FWIW your comment is completely uninformed. The correct info is out there

      • Jess

        Elizabeth, I don’t know where you got your info but Jay never announced his retirement. Fox offered Conan a position 5 years ago so NBC jumped and offered him the Tonight Show in 2009 if he was willing to stay and wait. NBC then spent the next few years trying to find a way to keep Jay too so that he didn’t leave them for ABC. This ended up with them giving him the 10 p.m. slot.

      • EJ

        some contingency plan. Conan isn’t funny – they should have left him where he was and given the Tonight Show to someone NEW! As for Letterman, what a waste of space.

      • Sally

        I don’t think anyone knows if Jay was forced to announce his retirement 5 years ago. All we know is he did announce he would retire in 5 years and that Conan would take over. When Jay made the announcement about his retirement, he said it was time to identify his successor.
        Whether Jay changed his mind or he never wanted to retire really does not matter. NBC had already signed a new contract with Conan giving him the Tonight Show. With the hopes of keeping their comedy boys happy, NBC gave a prime time show to Jay and the Tonight Show to Conan. However NBC did not think about keeping their audience happy. Some of the affiliates suspected a daily prime time Jay show would not work – his own hometown originally refused to air his prime time show because they knew the audience would not be happy about losing their drama or comedy and would not follow a Jay prime time show.

    • Jammy

      I think Craig Ferguson is a funny talent but I don’t like the way they do things there..segments on that show are taped waaaay in advance and are often not live – a local comedian who made it big did his spot amongst the cattle call and wasn’t shown till 6 months later…same with drop kick murphy’s St Patrick’s Day performance – shot months earlier..reminds me of the schedule Bing Crosby had with his Christmas shows done in July usually…NBC needs to clear the palate with the break of winter olympics and hope America gets the Olympic spirit…Conan & Jay are both right and are both wrong..their contracts didn’t guarantee ratings, and while no two guys work any harder – they are just facing the wrong people – I’d wait out loopy David Lettermen, & his top 10 interns still to seek counsel

  • Scott

    I hate David Letterman.Always have. He is a bitter old man who needs to get over his loss of The Tonight Show already. Hey Dave, go sit on your pile of money and shut the hell up.

  • t.t

    ferguson best host ever!

  • JJ

    Jack Nicholson warned you.

    • Agree

      sick LOLLOLOL

  • Merle Balke

    typical Tucker blasting Jay. I believe Jay has made his feelings perfectly clear over the past few days.

    • Agreed

      This says it all:

      “…which included, “Leave television altogether and work in a classier business with better people, like hardcore porn.” Take note, Jay: That’s how you express your feelings and get laughs.”

      Uhhh….ok. So that line expresses feelings Conan’s “feelings” better? Give me a break.

      I’m just surprised Ken Tucker can even stay up past 11:35pm, let alone 10pm. The nurses at his old folks home must not have been too pleased.

      • cndn610

        watched them all. Conan definitely was funnier than Jay. But then, Jay is never funny.

    • Scott

      And he doesn’t think Leno’s joke about NBC wanting drama makes sense? Leno’s offering that up as a reason why he’s getting the boot, not the reason why he was hired back in the fall. When they were telling him about his show, they probably said something along the lines of, “We want to go back to drama at 10.” I’ve never been a fan of Leno (or any of the others to watch on a consistent basis), but come on, let’s be a little unbiased! Not that popularity = greatness, but he was #1 in late night for how long?

  • Deena

    Well, Craig pretty much nailed it! Adore him!

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