CLEARWATER — Only three days after signing off from a 22-year run on “The “Tonight Show,” Leno was performing at a sold-out Capitol Theatre Sunday night.
Telling jokes and stories non-stop for more than 75 minutes, Leno had the packed house laughing in what was basically an extended monologue. He received a standing ovation when he came on stage and at the end of the performance.
There was no mention of NBC, or his recent departure. Most of the material was taken from current events.
He got some of his biggest laughs from riffs on the differences between dog and cat lovers and commercials from prescription drugs that carry health warnings.
“Did you hear that some parents want Walmart to stop selling a particular brand of underwear for teenage girls?” he joked. “Apparently the underwear says things like ‘naughty girls’ and ‘I like bad boys.’ The parents say this promotes premarital sex. Now parents, I don’t have any children, but if a guy is close enough to read your daughter’s underpants, it’s a forgone conclusion.
“You may have read in the news that there is a shortage of marijuana in Washington State and Colorado where medical marijuana is legal. Before it was legal you could buy it on any corner but when the government gets involved, suddenly there is a shortage.
“If you think health care is expensive now, wait until it is free.
“Hilary Clinton got an award from the Elton John Foundation as the future president most likely to look like Elton John.
“Last week, UCLA medical doctors said a common household plunger could be used on heart attack victims. Great. It’s bad enough to have doctors involved, now I have to bring in plumbers.
“Now we have smart refrigerators. It can detect when you are running low on food items. Do we really need this? You are in a meeting at work and your cell phone rings, ‘I got to take this. It’s my refrigerator. What? I am low on ding-dongs? Sorry, I got get to the store.”
Leno, 63, may have left NBC but he’s not ready to retire his act. He played Sarasota Friday night, West Palm Beach Saturday night and has booked 100 engagements throughout the country through the remainder of the year, including a return to the Capitol on March 29. But then Leno, who spent years on the comedy club circuit before “The Tonight Show” gig, has continued to perform stand-up most of his adult life.
His appearance here was part of the dedication of the Capitol which was reopened in December after an $8 million renovation.
Leno’s last week on “Tonight” was a low-key affair with old friends and favorite guests dropping by. It was Billy Crystal, Leno’s first and last guest, who estimated that Leno told more than 160,000 jokes during his run.
“I don’t like goodbyes: NBC does,” he joked in his last monologue, referring to a much-hyped farewell when NBC pushed him into a 10 p.m. slot to let Conan O’Brien take over “Tonight,” When O”Brien’s ratings sagged, NBC asked Leno to come back. Leno also joked on that last show that he wouldn’t be coming back again because he didn’t want to be fired for a third time. “I can take a hint,” he said.
This time, Leno is leaving to make room for Jimmy Fallon. Leno did choke up at the close of that last show, calling it the “greatest 22 years of my life.”