Here is Part Two of my interview with Jay Leno, the headliner at Saturday’s PACER Center gala. You have plenty of time to read it, then make your way to the Minneapolis Convention Center, where tickets are available at 5:30 p.m. The benefit supports PACER’s programs for children with disabilities and their families as well as its National Bullying Prevention Center.
Q: Who does the best impression of Jay Leno?
A: Dana Carvey’s really good. Actually [George] Clooney did a good me on “Saturday Night Live.” Put on a fake chin and that stuff.
Q: Are all your cars really expensive?
A: No, no, no! I like cars that are interesting or cars that have some connection to when I was growing up. My mom had a Ford Falcon so I have one of those. I have an old Galaxy like my dad had. I’ve got a Corvair I bought for 600 bucks. I put about 40 grand into it; it’s worth 12.5 [as in $12,500]. There you go.
Q: What does your wife, Mavis, collect on the same scale as your love of cars?
A: I always tell people, “You want to marry your conscience.” Marry the person you wish you could be. My wife got a Nobel Peace Prize nomination. She works with women in Afghanistan, women’s rights issues. You can guess which side of the [President Donald] Trump thing she’s on. My wife is a voracious reader. She reads at least one book a day. I like to get her first editions, Dickens and Bronte sisters. But she doesn’t really ask for anything. She doesn’t really collect things.
Q: You love Market Bar-B-Que, but do you know how to go outside, fire up the coals or the wood and barbecue?
A: Sure, we do it all the time. Especially at the garage. I’ve got a full kitchen in the garage.
Q: So Jay Leno knows how? I’m not talking about Jay Leno telling someone to barbecue.
A: It’s not that hard. Men will take a piece of chicken, put it on the grill, cook it, turn it over on the other side and suddenly it’s “Chicken Larry,” their own recipe. All you did was put a piece of fire under meat. You poured sauce on it. You didn’t even make the sauce.
Q: When you perform, do you always not curse?
A: It’s not that I’m any great moralist. I don’t find it challenging. Nobody’s shocked by language anymore. I get bored by it.
Q: Do you curse in your private life?
A: Oh, sure. It’s fun to curse sometimes; depends on the audience. … My problem is that I was never dirty enough to be a dirty comic. Why not try it more clean? It gets you more work. I go to some comedy shows and you literally have to be a gynecologist to follow the act. “Where is that on the woman?” Most comedy starts conservative and gets crazy. I remember years ago, Bill Cosby, prior to the Bill Cosby we know now, did a whole bit about a little old lady playing the slot machine and it went on and on and it ends with her pulling the handle and cursing. It gets a huge laughs because it comes out of nowhere. Cosby used the word in the way that would have the most impact. The old lady was so mad at the machine. It was really funny. I don’t put other people down for working blue [off color]. Cosby’s mistake was saying to young [black] comics, “Pull up your pants and stop talking like that.” To most of us in my age group, Cosby was the icon. But if you were born in 1990, he’s just an old man yelling at you.
Q: Have you talked to [David] Letterman? And I notice you have not grown a crazy beard in since leaving TV.
A: I probably haven’t. That’s another one of those things that was exaggerated.
Q: You mean the rift between you and Letterman is exaggerated?
A: You’ll see, I think there’s some book that came out about Dave and they go into [how] a lot of the silly rift was manufactured. He and I, to this day, have a mutual admiration. I always admired Dave’s ability as a wordsmith and I think he admired my ability as a performer. I used to enjoy doing his show back in the ’80s. It was a lot of fun. I suppose there was a rift, but it was largely made up. I had been guest hosting at the “Tonight Show” for five years and then they gave the show to me because the executives at NBC didn’t like Dave, didn’t like a lot of Dave’s people. Dave was a tough guy to deal with. I’m not beard guy. I look at that, and that’s Dave’s sense of humor. He’s a quirky guy, talented and funny. He’s an American original.
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.