“This is Jay Leno!”
The former “Tonight Show” host comes to the phone with his signature tenor. He’s calling from the West Coast, where he’s just wrapped two weeks of filming for his new CNBC show about cars.
It’s been just over a year since Leno delivered his final monologue and stepped out of the “Tonight Show” spotlight.
“It’s a bit more freedom,” he says, adding he spends much of his time doing what he loves: stand-up comedy. “Not much has changed. I just don’t have to write 14 minutes of jokes every single day.”
Leno has been keeping busy with his popular online automotive series, “Jay Leno’s Garage,” and expects his new CNBC show of the same name to premiere in or around May.
When asked if he has any other upcoming projects, he exclaims, “I hope not, I’m trying to get out of stuff!”
But Leno isn’t looking to retire or relax – he relishes his stand-up career.
“The [Tonight Show] monologue is a series of one-liners strung together, whereas you can tell stories and open up a bit more when you do a live show,” he says.
Rhode Islanders will get the chance to see Leno in action this month at the Providence Performing Arts Center’s Annual Gala on March 21.
“What can they expect? An old guy telling jokes.” he says dryly. “I’m not going to go through hoops of fire or anything like that….It’s basic, sort of communication, you walk onstage and you talk to people.”
Leno, who grew up in Massachusetts and owns a home 45 minutes from Providence, says visiting Rhode Island is a “bit of a homecoming.”
“It’ll be good,” he says. “I like the area, I like the people. New England is a hilarious place to grow up, the funniest place to be.”
Leno hasn’t been to Rhode Island in a while, but he fondly recalls doing shows at the Warwick Musical Tent in the 80’s and 90’s.
“I remember the mayor, who’s that crazy mayor you used to have? Who was it, Bobby Seeani?” he asks. He’s obviously trying to conjure up Buddy Cianci’s name.
“Buddy Cianci!” he exclaims. “He used to show up with jars of homemade spaghetti sauce all the time. It was like, ‘Oh this guy’s the mayor? Ok…’”
Leno says he even tried some of the Mayor’s Own Marinara Sauce on one occasion.
“It was good!” he says.