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Jay Leno

December 15, 1997

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Even famous comedians like Jay Leno (The Tonight Show) admit that sometimes their jokes flop. "Some people just won't laugh at a joke for whatever reason," Leno said. "You just have to keep going. But you know, sometimes, it's even funnier if a joke flops - people like to see you squirm. They'll laugh at that, and you just have to take it with a grain of salt. You can't get offended."

Part of Leno's easygoing nature comes from his mother, whom he said was very amusing in her own way. "She was from Scotland, and she didn't know many things about this country," Leno laughed, fondly remembering his mother. "Once she went to the store to buy butter, and she didn't know that peanut butter was different from regular butter, so she bought the peanut butter, because it was cheaper, and she put it on toast!"

Leno continued," She didn't know how to tell a joke either - she'd start with the punchline, then tell you the set up."

Fortunately, Leno learned to tell jokes the right way by listening to the comedians who were popular when he was a kid. "George Karlin was my favorite," Leno explained. "Most comedians were over forty and talked about marriage and how their wives liked to shop, etc., and I was just a kid - that didn't really interest me. But George Karlin had a whole hour where he just talked about things he used to do in school - passing notes, throwing spitballs, etc. I really loved listening to it, because he talked about a lot of the things I did."

Leno incorporated some of the comedy routines he'd watched into his own routines. "I would memorize Karlin and other comedians I heard and then I'd perform my own little standup routines, adding some of my own jokes at the end."

"I didn't always know that I wanted to be a comedian - as a kid I had no idea. But I kept making up jokes and doing my little routines, and after awhile, it finally hit me that that's what I wanted to do."


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