Jay Leno isn’t leaving “The Tonight Show” until next February, but he has already adopted a rebellious, devil-may-care attitude.
Or, you might call it a devil-don’t-care attitude, as evidenced by the clip, above, of Leno’s Friday night monologue.
The moment we’re talking about occurs roughly three minutes into the clip when Jay tells a joke about the late Esther Williams, the star of lavish MGM swimming pool musicals of the 1950s who died this past week at age 91.
Here’s the joke: “Some sad news,” Jay said, “that actress Esther Williams has passed away at the age of 91. Cause of death? Not waiting an hour after eating before going swimming!” The joke was greeted with almost utter silence. When we watched this at home, our take on it was that the audience didn’t get the joke because the set-up neglected to include any mention of Williams’ fame as a swimming star — something most of Jay’s audience likely did not know.
So Jay attempted a wan explanation. “How ironic would that be?” he said, expecting the audience to grasp the swimming connection. They evidently did not and Jay just gave up, saying, “I don’t care. I’m leaving soon. I don’t care! I don’t care. Write me a letter – I don’t care! A year ago I would have pulled the joke. Now, screw it!”