The Jay Leno Show: Pee Wee Herman, Amy Poehler
by Danny Gallagher, posted Sep 23rd 2009 1:15AM
Ever hear a joke that you're not sure you heard a punchline to yet? I'm not even sure tonight's Jay Leno Show had a setup.
Pee Wee Herman's triumphant return to Jay's show was an insufferable bore, beyond an opening joke about mistaking a wedding ring for an abstinence ring. It ended, and I literally said the words, "Why the hell did I just watch that?" Then I realized I'm being paid to watch TV for a living, and I quit bitching.
The comic character was there to promote his revival of The Pee Wee Herman Show stage play, but the whole interview had very few laughs and felt more like an introspective look at the man's childhood and aspirations to go into show business. The only problem is he's a fictional character and the stories didn't have much of a punchline, so it's hard to know if they were about Pee Wee Herman or the man playing Pee Wee Herman. Should I be laughing? Should I be interested? Should I care?
Then just before I'm about to be sucked down into a swirling gray vortex of dull, the two move into that weird salad bar and deep fryer bit. I was waiting for them to get into a food fight or for Cowboy Curtis, aka Lawrence Fishburne, to poke his head out of the cucumber bin and give them a big ol' "Howdy."
Nothing like that happened. The thing didn't even feel like the setup to a joke. It just felt like a joke and not the good kind. The only funny part was the metal set piece that fell to the floor and broke the dullness of the salad bar bit. Either one of Jay's crew has the butterfingers or God is a better interview prepper than Jay's staff.
The upside was tonight's "Ten@Ten", this time with Parks and Recreation star Amy Poehler. The segment seems to work loads better when a comedian is being interviewed, since the questions aren't always meant to be serious. It reminded me, for the first time, of Craig Kilborn's famous "5 Questions" from the original Daily Show and The Late Late Show. Her answers were very witty and funny and brought a great sense of spontaneity to the show, something that's been suspiciously absent since the primetime talk show hit the air.
Marina Franklin's correspondent set also brought some much needed comedy to the show. It had a great sense of honest comedy without going over the top from some very genuine people as she toured Harlem in search of signs of the city's slow gentrification. Any one of the people Marina interviewed would have made a much funnier guest than Pee Wee Herman.
At least I would have known they were being real.