Scoop: No joke — Leno talks to himself about standup

By Courtney Hazlett
|  Wednesday, Dec 9, 2009  |  Updated 7:45 PM CDT
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No Joke -- Leno Talks to Himself About Standup

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NBC's Jay Leno is making $30 million a year.

Before Jay Leno became host of “The Tonight Show,” he once held the title of “the country’s third most frequent flier,” and was given an award by American Airlines for racking up so many miles. Leno shares this anecdote as the airline’s first guest editor of its in-flight magazine, American Way. Part of his duties as guest editor included conducting an interview — Leno interviewed himself — and he seemed to use the platform as a defense of “The Jay Leno Show.”

The pertinent question comes when Leno asked himself: “You’ve been incredibly successful on TV, why do you still do standup?”

There are other ways that question could have been phrased to make it more timely. Like, “You’ve been incredibly successful on TV, up until recently, when it seems you’re in a time slot that really doesn’t showcase what you’re capable of doing best, is that part of why do you still do standup?” Or, “You’ve been incredibly successful on TV, why don’t you just stop and do standup?”

Leno’s show Tuesday did just have its highest rated episode since the fourth night it aired back in September (the total audience was 8.4 million, he typically draws between 4 and 5 million) but that had more to do with getting a boost from “The Biggest Loser” finale. Leno’s answer is twofold. First, he believes in having two jobs in order to “live on one job and bank the other.” Then he goes on to make an argument that as long as people are buying tickets for standup, then the television show must be “doing fine.”

“When you work in TV, you get these odd notes on little slips of paper that say you are or aren’t doing well with boys between the ages of 9 and 13 or you need to make more cat jokes because the people with cats aren’t watching often enough,” Leno said. “But if you walk into a 1,500-seat theater and it’s packed, you know you are doing fine. If it’s only two-thirds full, you know you have some more work to do.”

He might be packing in audiences for standup, but unless he attracts more viewers for “The Jay Leno Show,” several insiders say there’s a good chance he’ll be moved to another time slot before his contract runs out.

Beyonce & Jay-Z talk babies
Is there a little Sasha Fierce on the way? Us Weekly is reporting that during a recent night out, Beyoncé and Jay-Z “were running baby names past friends,” according to a source. “One they all liked was a girl’s name.” Which, really, tells us nothing, other than there may be a girl’s name out there that they like. If there is a baby on the way don’t expect an early announcement — Beyonce’s confirmation of her marriage to Jay-Z came by way of saying “I don’t deny it,” about six months after her wedding.

Keeping tabs on Tiger
The Tiger Woods saga is the most popular cover subject among the weeklies. No one gets it totally right though, if you’re going for the perfect mix of cover image, headlines, and content. The best though, is People. Their story is the most unique, as it’s from Elin’s perspective (“Tiger’s Wife Elin: Inside her ordeal”) but what they get wrong is the lead art — a profile shot of Elin where her face is barely visible from behind hair, sunglasses, and high collar. Not really eye catching. But at least it doesn’t make your eyes hurt, like the OK! cover. They’ve got an exclusive with alleged mistress Rachel Uchitel, and If you can make out the headline through the jungle of words and colors you’ll see it’s “My side of the story,” only nowhere in the four-page Q&A can one find her side of the story. In fact, the closest she comes to any part of the Tiger story in general, much less her side, is to say she’s been characterized as a villain, and when you’re judged by the nation, it’s difficult and horrible. The rest of the interview involves mundane details about her life: she watches “Nancy Grace” every night, likes murder mysteries and has two dogs (one named Rudy Guiliani and another, Ozzy Osbourne).

Courtney Hazlett delivers the Scoop Monday through Friday on msnbc.com. Follow Scoop on Twitter @courtneyatmsnbc

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