Okay, all you poor frozen chumps in Michigan, listen to this story: I went to HERMOSA BEACH Sunday night with the "commune" -- Teddy R., Dennis B., and my beloved Ted N. Doesn't even the very sound of the name "Hermosa Beach" strike envy into your ice-encrusted Midwestern hearts? I'm almost ashamed to tell this story.
But, I will. We heard that almost every Sunday night, Jay Leno shows up at the Comedy and Magic Club in the aforementioned H.B. and tries out his jokes for the next week on the show. We bought tickets for the 7 p.m. show and as we'd been advised, showed up at 4:30 to be as close to first in line as possible. I had "The Emperor's Children," a fat new novel by Claire Messud,, in my stylish LA shoulder bag, just in case my friends' conversational wit (or mine, let's be fair) failed while waiting for The Man to appear. And bear in mind this was OSCAR night -- would he really give up a night of schmoozing at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood for a roomful of overweight tourists?
Well, yes, as it turned out, he would.
But first, we had to wait in the blessed Sunday afternoon sun outside. There were only five people in front of us -- some overly tanned bleached-blond nurses (we learned) who beat us to first choice tables in the 300-seat venue. That was okay. We got great seats about 10 feet from the stage and ordered our first round of drinks -- a kamikaze for me, of course. Then reasonably decent kalimari appetizers and an edible romaine salad, though Teddy R. complained it was "too white." Then an assortment of raviolis and teriyakis, merely krill to keep us occupied until the first comic, charming Wayne Cotter, stepped out. Hilarious guy, and such a nice kid. And then James Brogan, a native Buckeye (from Cleveland, that rich source of dark humor) whose whole schtick consisted of asking audience members, "Where are you from?" and going from there. "Who's that?" he asked one retired English teacher about the rather dumbfounded geezer beside her. "My live in lover," she shouted happily, and he moved to the next table...
(That's handsome Wayne Cotter on the left)
And then with no fanfare, out stepped Leno, his hair and tie askew as if he'd just clambered off his motorcycle. I laughed so hard the raviolis were doing a tango in my belly. After a 45 minute monologue (a bit stale, frankly, relying weirdly on Michael Jackson and O.J. Simpson jokes), he pulled out a little stack of index cards and his glasses in a black case held together with a rubber band. When he pulled off the rubber band and opened the case, the rubber band stuck to his glasses and was still dangling there when he put them on. Interesting offhand remark: He said his wife keeps nagging him, "Honey, you make millions of dollars, you'd think you could have a glasses case that doesn't need a rubber band around it." He seemed like a regular guy, if a bit frenetic. He had a little old-fashioned tape recorder which he clicked on and propped up on a stool, presumably to record our reactions. It was all so low-tech -- I felt right at home.
So, we laughed our asses off as he made jokes about Britney Spears and Hillary Clinton's pantsuits and his Italian childhood, and then he said, "Well, there's probably four or five good ones there," and he tucked his index cards back in his jacket, put away his glasses, picked up the little recorder and disappeared. I finished off the last swig of my kamikaze and my friends and I went out into the fresh air of Hermosa Beach, surprised night had fallen during our two hours of hilarity.
Monday night, I fell asleep before the Leno show, but Ted stayed up for it and said he used about a dozen of those Hermosa Beach gags. And last night, a couple more popped out, and I feel like I was part of something, with my laughs. I never had to crack that novel.