Jay Leno packs Majestic in kick-off to promotional tour

The late night personality, whose famed monologues on “The Tonight Show” were beamed live into millions of homes until May 29 2009, delivered the laughs in much the same way he did on national television.,Jay Leno treated several hundred lucky contest winners and Emerson faculty and staff who packed the Cutler Majestic Theatre to a wide-ranging, off-color show Aug. 11.

The late night personality, whose famed monologues on “The Tonight Show” were beamed live into millions of homes until May 29 2009, delivered the laughs in much the same way he did on national television.

In an interview before the show Leno discussed his career and his new show and talked about his time at Emerson. Leno gave aspiring comedians and actors advice, discussed his methods, talked about his new show and even cleared up some of the rumors that that loom over the alum when it comes to the subject of his feelings about the college.

For instance: no, Jay Leno did not flunk out of Emerson, and no one told him he wasn’t funny while he attended school. When asked if he was a part of any comedy troupes, Leno said he was not. He explained that at the time Emerson did not have the programs to support stand up comedy, and as a result he worked in comedy clubs outside of the school in both Boston and New York, therefore spending little time on Emerson’s campus.

Leno’s appearance was the first stop on a national tour to promote “The Jay Leno Show,” which premieres on NBC Sept. 14. The comedian and talk show host will be moving to a prime time TV spot after 17 years burning the midnight oil.

Leno’s hour appearance was also a homecoming of sorts for the comedian who has reached near total notoriety with his acerbic, sharp wit and trademark monologue style. While attending Emerson from 1969 to 1973, Leno worked weekends at the now-shuttered Playboy Club, one of the numerous sex-soaked and sometimes-seedy establishments of the old Combat Zone, which Emerson has been credited with rebuilding.

Around 2 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 11, a line began to form in front of the Majestic, and eventually stretched from the entrance down the block and around the corner to the Walker Building. The crowd was composed exclusively of Emerson faculty and people who won free tickets by participating in a “Sealy Posturepedic sleep test” at any Bernie Phyl’s furniture store. At the Majestic, however, Jay Leno put no one to sleep.

During his performance, Leno’s comedic rants were wide-ranging and touched on sex, religion, marriage, celebrities and politics, to which the audience roared with laughter. Leno played a similar patter duing his monologues on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” which will carry over to his new show due to popularity. But on stage his spark of energy and love for live comedy is immediately apparent, two elements that sometimes are lost on national television.

“I really miss Jay’s show!” said Lisa Matthews, an audience member waiting to catch a glimpse of Leno as he exited the theater. “I enjoyed today. I’m really excited about his comeback in September.”

At the end of his show, an audience member yelled out “Andover,” the town in Massachusetts where Leno grew up. From there a flurry of improvisation came forth, with Leno poking playful fun at Boston and the town of Andover, and the people in the audience. Leno mentioned that the news in Andover seems exclusively local. Leno said if a natural disaster occurred in China, and as a result the economy crumbled and millions were left homeless, the Andover news would read “Local couple cancels trip to Beijing!”

“It was good, some of the material was actually pretty old as far as current events that happened maybe a year or two ago, but he was definitely funny and I liked his interaction with the crowd,” said Buddy Hanley, an assistant baseball coach at Emerson.

Leno acknowledged Emerson has made major changes since his time as a student, including its current friendliness and encouragement for its aspiring comedians.

“Since that time Emerson has a wonderful comedy department, since then it has really opened up a lot but back then.it really just wasn’t something that the school had, so at the point I was really just sort of.so I’ll just go to school and get the degree and give it to my parents and then I’ll just move on, and that’s pretty much what I did. Since that time comedy has earned its rightful place at the school and I think it’s great.”