Last night, Jay Leno bid an emotional farewell to The Tonight Show after 22 years of hosting the program. Late night host Jimmy Fallon will replace Leno, who enjoyed tremendous ratings success right up until the end. On radio this morning, Glenn played Leno’s hearfelt goodbye and recalled his own appearance on The Tonight Show.
“Here is a guy who has hung out with presidents. He has hung out with everybody. He met them and that’s neat,” Glenn said. “Who in television talks about the audio guy? Who in television talks about the lighting guy? Who in television talks about the cameramen? Nobody. He is a good, good man… Class act.”
Glenn made his first and only appearance on The Tonight Show in December 2009, while he was promoting his bestselling book the Christmas Sweater. He shared his experience this morning:
When we first went to The Tonight Show, it was at the zenith of things… The Tonight Show had been trying to get us on for a long time, and I avoid those things like the plague. I’m not interested in them… [But] we were on our way to go see the Andy Williams Show, and I said while we’re in Los Angeles, let’s just do The Tonight Show too. But we said we want to make it all about Christmas. We don’t want to talk about why the president is a racist or anything like that. We just want to talk about Christmas. And so they agreed to it.
So we fly out, and I’m sitting backstage. I still have my little plaque. They put a little plaque on your door in the back that says, you know, ‘Glenn Beck, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.’ And so I go backstage, and Jay comes in just to say hi real quick. He was nice but it was weird. When we walked out on the set, I could feel the disapproval from the producers. Not from the average everyday person, but just from the higher-ups… And pretty soon this producer comes in that we had trusted and he closes the door, and he’s like, ‘Um, they’re putting stuff into the questions now for Jay’… We wanted to deal with Christmas. They were getting into politics and the typical questions that everybody had asked me a million times. And I said, ‘Go tell the producer to come in.’ So he came in along with Jay… I said, ‘I’m going to answer [those questions] exactly the same way I’ve answered them every time. There’s no new ground. ‘And Jay said, ‘Glenn, if I have you on, it’s going to look weird that I don’t ask you those questions.’ I just looked at him and I said, ‘Well, I guess you guys don’t keep your word. So thanks very much.’ And I looked at one of the guys and said, ‘Call the pilots. Tell them to fire up the engines. We’ll be in the airport in 20 minutes. And let’s go see the Andy Williams Christmas show.’ And I started moving towards the door. And that’s when everybody freaked out and they were like, ‘Okay, okay, okay, okay, okay.’
So when Jay Leno was introducing me, I could see the prompter… It said, ‘Oh, I see there’s some boos and some controversy here.’ There was none. I got three standing ovations. And there was no controversy, but the writers had put it into the script, into the teleprompter for him to say that…. So he says that, so I’m like, okay, let’s see if this man is a man of his word. I sit down. And [it] goes fine.
But at one point… we’re going into break… and the crowd stands up. They’re applauding, and Jay reaches over and he puts his hand on my microphone and his microphone while the crowd is really going crazy and he said, ‘You know, we’re not all that different.’ He didn’t say he agrees with me politically because I don’t think he does. But he said, ‘We’re really not all that different. We actually probably have an awful lot in common.’ And I thought, ‘Well, there’s something.’
So the show ends. Jay is a man of his word. A year later, I’m flying out to Los Angeles. And it’s my birthday. I’m supposed to be working on my birthday, and you know, we have nothing planned… it’s just another day. But unbeknownst to me, my wife called Jay Leno and says, ‘Jay, it’s Glenn’s birthday and he really wants to see your car collection. Is there any way he could just go in and see your car collection?’ Not assuming that Jay Leno is going to, you know, be there… And he says, ‘Absolutely.’
And so, as we’re landing in Burbank, she says, ‘By the way, we’re going to go over and see Jay Leno’s car collection.’ And I’m really excited just to see the cars. The car pulls up, and Jay is there at the warehouse out front ready to meet us. And we get out and he is totally a different guy… I’m not talking politically. He’s just now a guy who’s a mechanic. He’s just a normal guy. And we talked for a few minutes and I said, ‘Jay, you’re not the same guy I saw on The Tonight Show.’ And he said, ‘That’s the role I play.’
Now he’s just a guy who’s hanging out, and he’s not Jay Leno. There’s Jay Leno and then there’s a guy named Jay. He walks us around, and he stops at one point and he’s asking me what I think about Sarah Palin. I tell him. And he turns to me and he said, ‘Can I ask you a question? When did we become this country where if you vote different than me, I have to hate you?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know, Jay, but it’s wrong.’ And he said, ‘I know it is.’
Leno’s legacy may be his comedy and his public persona, but Glenn got the opportunity to meet and speak with a “really good, cool guy” that “we need to be more like.”
“If we were more like Jay Leno, if we would have talked less about his monologue and more about how he lived his life and who he really is as a person, I think America would be a better place,” Glenn concluded. “It is a really bittersweet day… Jay Leno is going to go on and do many, many great things. I wish he’d do them with TheBlaze, but I don’t think that’s in the cards… In a sea of filth, and anger, and everything else, Jay Leno tried to show us every night you don’t have to be that way. We can be better. Good man.”