When Jay Leno appeared at the Ridgefield Playhouse (www.ridgefieldplayhouse.org) on June 14, it was one of about 200 shows he’ll do this year. He heard the audience laugh itself to the point of hyperventilation again, because that is what his live show does. As a man who has shunned coffee, booze and drugs his whole life, these performances give him, he admits, quite the high.
Comedy, our old form of entertainment, should be live, otherwise it’s like watching Avatar on an iPhone.
“That’s why I don’t do comedy specials on TV,” he says. “People watch it at home on their computer and go, ‘It wasn’t that funny.’ Of course it wasn’t. You need to be in a room with people. There’s an energy from people sharing the experience. That’s the fun.”
Leno knows about energy. Even as he hosted 4,631 Tonight Shows, he simultaneously kept up his live appearances, and, in fact, lived off those proceeds while he banked all the TV money, which he is now free to spend on a vast automobile and motorcycle collection. In his life’s terrific third act, he lives out his lust for motoring iron on his CNBC show, Jay Leno’s Garage (www.nbc.com/jay-lenos-garage).
Caitlyn Jenner, who he knows from car racing days, guests on the show, and he just devised a terrific joke on her, but begged we not use it since at the time of our interview he was planning on using it in Ridgefield, which he loves. “It’s fun to play the big rooms, but there’s an intimacy with a nice, 500-seat theater.”
“My brother Patrick lived in Ridgefield, actually.” A lawyer who practiced in New Canaan, Patrick died fifteen years ago. But the Boston-raised Jay feels at home here.
“I come back to California and there’s a house every two feet. Then I go back to Connecticut and go, ‘Why is this not littered with houses and become overpopulated? They’ve done a good thing on keeping the rural/urban thing pretty good.”