Portrait of Jay Leno
Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/CNBC

Jay Leno has some advice for celebrities who insist on publicly sharing their views about, well, everything:


During a recent phone call in advance of his March 19 gig at Atlantic City’s Ocean Casino Resort (postponed by COVID-19 from April 2020 and May 2021), the former “Tonight Show” host sounded both bemused and annoyed by the seemingly endless parade of performers who believe their gifts endow them with a license to bloviate on any and all subjects that strike their fancies.

The almost-72-year-old joke jockey spoke derisively about “this self-importance that everybody in show business gives themselves: ‘Well, I’m on a sitcom, so I should be speaking about what’s happening [in Ukraine] or something,’” he sniped.

“My wife is involved with the group called Feminist Majority; they fight for women’s rights and her group got a Nobel Peace Prize nomination. I’m very proud, and I help them when I can. I’m just not one who believes celebrities are more important than anybody else.

“That’s why I don’t have a Twitter account,” he continued. “I don’t get on there and say, ‘Well, here’s what I believe.’ I mean, it just seems so preposterous to me. Why should you comment on everything? It’s nice to have an opinion and I do have opinions, but I just feel a lot of show business types [think] they’re more important than the story. It just seems rather narcissistic to me to think that.”

Leno, who despite his jaundiced views on the subject is universally known as being one of show biz’s nice guys, is likewise unimpressed with the current generation of late-night TV talk-show hosts whose political leanings are unambiguous (e.g. uniformly liberal and anti-Donald Trump and the GOP).

“When I did ‘The Tonight Show,’ like Johnny [Carson], the idea back then was to make fun of both sides. When I got angry letters from Democrats and Republicans, I knew I was doing my job. Now, if you have a late-night show, you have to give your opinion on what you think on every issue, and you always wind up losing half the audience.”

As was the case with virtually every other touring entertainer, the pandemic severely impacted Leno’s career: He is legendary in the industry for his decades of incessant touring; he estimated that even during the 22 years he hosted “The Tonight Show,” he gigged more than 200 times a year. But, he admitted, the worldwide plague opened his eyes to a different way of life.

He explained he was always loathe to turn down any job, even after he achieved television stardom. But, “When this sort of forced vacation thing started, it was like, oh, okay, I have no choice but to stay home, so I might as well enjoy myself.

“I mean, I’m fortunate that it happened at this end of my career, not the beginning. People say to me, ‘How rough is it?’ I go, ‘It’s not rough because I made my money.’”

It’s not that Leno is spending his days puttering around the garden and napping. His Jay Leno’s Garage YouTube channel, which every Sunday debuts a new video about cars, has more than 3 million subscribers. And he and his “Tonight Show” sidekick, guitarist Kevin Eubanks, have just re-upped with Fox-owned stations for a second season of their “You Bet Your Life” reboot (it’s the latest iteration of the beloved comedy/quiz show that was famously hosted by Groucho Marx from the late-1940s through the early ’60s). As far as Leno is concerned, it’s a gig for which he is perfectly suited as it allows him to interact and trade off-the-cuff quips with non-celebrities.

“I generally like to talk to people,” he offered. “It’s what I like to do and it’s fun. I find it the easiest thing in the world.” He added he’s especially proud of the geographical and demographic diversity of the contestants he’s welcomed, noting that his guests hail from around the world, as opposed to those on most Hollywood-based game shows, who tend to live in Southern California.

“We’ve had contestants from Somalia, Nigeria, Poland, the Louisiana Bayou, Maine, North Carolina,” he bragged.

“We had this lady, about 4-11, maybe five feet, about 60, 65 years old. And [she was teamed] with a huge African-American guy, who was about 6-5, 6-6 and weighed like 275. So they come out and they look funny standing together and every time they got a question right, the guy put his arm around her and lifted her up like a rag doll and waved her around.

“It was the funniest thing you’ve ever seen. And you think, ‘Where would these two people ever interact like this?’ I’m sure they probably have completely different [lives]…but they got along and they had fun on the show. And that’s kinda the idea behind it.”

Show time is 9 p.m. Admission is $89 to $39.50. For tickets, go to

Slot ‘Madness’ at Live! Philly

Live! Casino Hotel Philadelphia has introduced a new slots program dubbed “Mega Jackpot Madness.”

The concept behind it is that each eligible machine offers a jackpot that starts at $10,000. Every time a player using their Live! Rewards card spins the reels, the prize increases until the jackpot is hit (it is guaranteed to pay off). The maximum payout is $50,000 with the prize pool resetting to $10,000 when someone wins.

In addition, each time one of the jackpots hits, the ensuing 60 minutes will see 10 bonus jackpots made available, each good for $500 to $1,000 in free slot play.

Let’s Dance

Star DJ Lil Jon is among the roster of big-time track-weavers scheduled to keep the party going at Premiere Nightclub at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.

The first date of Lil Jon’s Big B residency is set for April 23. Others who have recurring Premiere gigs this year include Loud Luxury, Stafford Brothers, Sickick, Madds, DJ Press Play, Bingo Players, Lost Kings, MAKJ, Georgia Sinclair, Cat Dealers, PS1, Amicaz and Armentani Bros.


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See you at the casinos!

    • Chuck Darrow headshot

      Chuck Darrow has spent more than four decades as a writer and broadcaster specializing in covering the Philadelphia region's arts, entertainment and casinos. He is still afraid he may one day have to work for a living. 

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