Picks and Pans Review: Jay Leno and the American Dream
Showtime (Thurs., May 8, 7 p.m. ET)
At least 10,000 times, I've seen Jay Leno on Late Night With David Letterman, plugging a gig in some Podunk club, and I wondered when (and whether) the guy would ever hit the big time. Then he did. Leno played Carnegie Hall. Which is almost as good as getting your own cable special. So I went to Carnegie and finally got to see more of Leno than a seven-minute guest shot. I was impressed. He filled every minute onstage with gags that worked—no groaners, no goofs, no cheap yucks. He's a pro. He's just plain funny. So this special would have been great if they'd done nothing but tape Leno's stand-up routine. But they try to do more. They have Leno wandering out into the heartland—Chicago, actually—to find out what's happened to the American dream. He visits a serious bingo club (which is amazing), a fancy French kitchen, a grungy joint called Mr. Beef and a swearing-in ceremony for new citizens. Though we get plenty of laughs, there aren't as many per minute as there would be if Leno just stood onstage telling jokes.
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