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"Assures us the events on screen received national attention by the appearance of Jay Leno on a television, who makes a joke about it."—Roger Ebert, Big Little Movie Glossary
"If it ain't on Leno, it didn't happen."
Sure, bloggers have blogged about it, the dead-tree media have gone on and on, the local TV news has flogged it to death, but it is not really news until Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien, Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, or Jimmy Fallon has taken notice.
This carries over to the in-show universes. How do you show President Bartlet's actions are getting a lot of press? Get Jay Leno to guest star on The West Wing and do a Show Within a Show mention of it. (For slightly older shows or movies, Larry King may be substituted. Even older ones used Johnny Carson, and further back you'd get Jack Parr or even Milton Berle.)
- One of Geico's ads with the gecko has him on Larry King Live.
- In Civil War Frontline, Conan O'Brien has a segment called "Guess The Secret Identity". Candidates for the villain Bullseye include Tony Soprano, Conan O'Brien, and Michael Jackson.
- The Marvel Universe fanfic "Commentary" has The Daily Show's Jon Stewart and Ed Helms discussing the Superhero Registration Act and Spider-Man's unmasking.
Jon Stewart (discussing J. Jonah Jameson): "That's right ... Peter Parker took photos. Of himself. And sold them to this man who never, ever wondered why this one guy could get nearly all the photos of Spider-Man ... all the time."
- Throughout The Siege, reporters and pundits like Daniel Shorr and Ariana Huffington (respectively) give in-universe commentary on events in the story.
- Terry Benedict goes on "Oprah" at the end of Ocean's Thirteen.
- Forrest Gump - Forrest has met Elvis, become a war hero, a millionaire, and has met a bunch of Presidents. But he really becomes a pop star with his appearance on The Dick Cavett Show. Dick Cavett briefly mocks the boring nature of the Apollo 13 mission. This, of course, before Houston has a problem. Justified, in that the Cavett clip was archival footage that really did air just before the accident.
- In Contact, shortly after the message from the aliens is revealed to the world, Leno is shown making a joke about it. This film also featured sitting president Bill Clinton as himself. Clinton's appearances were actually spliced (rather expertly) from speeches on real-life issues, and he wasn't particularly happy about his "appearance" in the film. CNN Anchor Bernie Shaw was also in the film.
- Leno's segment was taken from a section of monologue about the discovery of extinct single-celled life forms on Mars, which occurred around the time the film was being made.
- Ditto in the film The Birdcage, after the scandalous death of a senator.
- Leno appeared in the film Cars, joking about Lightning McQueen's disappearance, as a limousine named "Jay Limo".
- Leno appeared in the presidential fantasy movie Dave to remark on the president's newfound vigor. The movie has multiple montage scenes with Leno, other talk show hosts, and Washington political commentators. Oliver Stone appears, spouting (correct) conspiracy theories, and Ben Stein shows up at a party held by one of the bad guys.
- Jon Stewart and The Daily Show turned up in Evan Almighty; this also doubled as a Shout-Out to the star, Steve Carell, who had previously been a staff member for The Daily Show. Former Daily Show correspondent Ed Helms also had a cameo as a skeptical reporter.
- Jay Leno again, in The Film of the Series of The Flintstones.
- Larry King discusses the Ghostbusters on his radio talk show (the movie predates his hiring by CNN). Casey Kasem also appears (voice only) to discuss the Busters' exploits.
- Bill Maher, then-host of Politically Incorrect, turns up in the closing montage of John Q, amidst a flurry of talking heads discussing the main character's actions and what they say about the American healthcare system.
- Larry King as a bee version of himself in Bee Movie.
- In Iron Man, there's a sequence with Jim Cramer in which he reacts as he always does to a falling stock on his show Mad Money... except that said stock is that of Stark Industries after Tony declares the end of his munitions manufacturing.
The sequel repeats the trope, this time with Christiane Amanpour reporting about the aftermath of the battle between Iron Man and Whiplash at Monaco and Bill O'Reilly criticizing Tony for making Pepper CEO of Stark Industries.
- Jimmy Kimmel joking about Hellboy in his second feature film. Because Leno just isn't crass and insulting enough for this case.
- Used as a Credits Gag in The Astronaut Farmer.
- The Robin Williams film Man of the Year features his presidential character being a special guest on Saturday Night Live, featuring then-Weekend Update anchors Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Amusingly enough, the movie was filmed during Fey's last season on SNL and released two days after Thirty Rock started, so the movie was actually dated even before it came out.
Just to keep it in-house, MSNBC anchor and politics junkie Chris Matthews was also in the film, revealing election returns.
- Leno (again) appeared in In & Out, making a rather terrible gay joke about the main character, a small-town teacher who only got national attention because an ex-student-turned-Hollywood actor outed him in his Oscar speech -- the only problem being said small-town teacher was still in the closet. One wonders, with Leno joking about missing persons cases and homosexuals who nobody knows in films he has appeared in, whether filmmakers have a low opinion of Leno. Possibly justified by Leno agreeing to be in all these movies even when it makes no sense. Money, Dear Boy?
- The main characters of Space Cowboys make an appearance on Leno.
- At the end of The Long Kiss Goodnight, one protagonist pulls some strings to get the other an interview on Larry King Live.
- In the Land of the Lost movie, Marshall has a disastrous interview with The Today Show's Matt Lauer.
- In What About Bob, Dr. Leo Marvin does a live interview on Good Morning America, which Bob ends up crashing.
- Larry King briefly discusses the fictional president's accomplishments in Independence Day, and the President's decision to remain in the White House after the arrival of the Alien Invaders becomes a topic on The [McLaughlin] Group. (The first daughter also mentions she was allowed to watch Letterman, but that's more of a Shout-Out).
- Craig Ferguson appears in Kick-Ass to discuss the titular hero's arrival on the superhero scene.
- Ed of EDtv did an appearance on Jay Leno's Tonight Show because his 24/7 reality show was such a success.
- Wanye's World 2: The beginning of the movie shows that Cassandra's musical career is beginning to take off big-time by having her be the musical guest on an episode of The Tonight Show.
- Watchmen features The McLaughlin Group (though portrayed by actors) doing a discussion of Dr. Manhattan.
- The American version of State of Play features Chris Matthews on TV as if in a clip from Hardball. The scene where the congressman's wife addresses the press contains at least half a dozen Washington D.C. based reporters.
- Subverted in The Great Buck Howard, in which the title character is set to appear on Leno but is bumped for time.
- In Oh, God!, Jerry doesn't get a lot of attention for his claims of talking to God until after he appears on the Dinah Shore Show.
- In The Adjustment Bureau, the main character (a Congressman running for Senate) appears on The Daily Show.
- Battle: Los Angeles has major news coverage of the invasion by CNN, MSNBC, Fox and several other news outlets. This, in addition to characters talking on Skype, assaure us that the movie takes place in our universe.
- A whole montage of them in The Great Buck Howard.
- Bill O'Reilly comments on a public opinion poll about Autobots in Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
- At the end of Project X, Jimmy Kimmel is talking about the big party on his show, along with several real-life LA-area DJs.
- Little Nicky features Regis Philbin bragging about beating an old woman on the street due to the influence of Cassius and Adrien.
- Leno again, in the Seinfeld episode "The Shower Head".
- In Joey the titular character realizes he's made it when he gets the chance to appear on Leno. Hijinks ensue, but he gets there in the end. And calls Jay "Johnny".
- Denny Crane in Boston Legal often appears on Larry King.
- The Wings episode "The Team Player" involves Antonio, manning the Sandpiper ticket counter while Joe and Brian are attending a hockey game, refusing to let a star Boston Bruins player on the plane when he shows up right before takeoff. The Bruins lose the game and a public relations disaster ensues, capped off by the characters seeing Leno make a joke about the incident on The Tonight Show.
- Bill Maher again appeared on Dharma and Greg. Greg, who is running for Congress, gets caught having sex with his wife Dharma in a car after a fundraiser. The irony is that the juicy story helps his campaign immensely, since the people finally have a candidate who demonstrates good family values.
Maher: "Nobody knows what to make of this guy, Greg Montgomery. On the one hand, he was caught having sex, so we know he's not a Republican. But it was with his wife, so we know he's not a Democrat!"
- An interesting variation happened in an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: Will comes up with the idea of taking pictures of "Celebrity Houses At Night" so he can compile into a book of the same name (seriously). However, an unscrupulous editor takes a photo of Jay Leno pouring coffee down a drain, claims he's actually pouring oil and polluting the environment and sells it under Will's name.
Naturally, Leno sues Will for millions of dollars. You expect this whole thing to be resolved without Leno actually showing up... until Will, with his characteristic nerve, manages to trick his way into appearing on The Tonight Show to set the record straight. After he does so and tries to stay for the following guest interview, he suddenly gets thrown out of the studio in the exact same manner as Jazz is thrown out of the Banks' house.
- In the Doctor Who episode "The Stolen Earth", Paul O'Grady made a brief appearance, making bad jokes about the situation (though this may have been a very deliberate attempt to reduce panic rather than him acting of his own accord).
- The show has done this a few times over the years. A 1966 serial had both Kenneth Kendall and Dwight Whylie reporting on a robot rampage, and a 1972 serial had Alex Macintosh reporting on an equally fictional peace conference.
- Yet another Leno example: in an episode of Just Shoot Me, Finch appears on The Tonight Show to talk about being "attacked" by a gorilla.
- There's an episode of Shark where a Serial Killer who escapes justice publishes an OJ-esque book about how he successfully defended himself against James Woods' prosecuting attorney character. The killer appears on Larry King Live to hype his book. Larry is portrayed fairly well, as he happens to be a friend of Woods' character, and he accuses his guest, pointblank, of being a Serial Killer.
- Played for laughs on a segment on Rove about politics. When the question "What would life be like if we didn't have politics?" was asked, we cut to an episode of political satire The Chaser's War on Everything, where they had nothing to talk about.
- Arrested Development featured Jim Cramer upgrading the Bluth company stock to "Don't Buy".
- Bill Maher, now host of HBO's Real Time, appears on network sister program True Blood, hosting a panel similar to the ones on his program about Vampire Rights.
- Referenced, sort of, in The West Wing. Leno guest-appeared as himself at a Hollywood fundraiser/party for the President, and C.J. specifically went over to thank him for going easy on Leo's recently-revealed drug problem. Leno deflects the thanks, saying that the White House gives him monologue material every night anyway, and continues that it would be really great if the President could ride his bicycle into a tree again, because that's his bread and butter...
- The NBC soap opera Passions featured a dream sequence in which Jay Leno mocks socialite Gwen Hotchkiss' crumbling love life in his monologue. Leno was a big fan of the show while it was on the air.
- Leno appeared on the first episode of JAG. In a later season, so did Bill O'Reilly, who made a positive comment about a main character's competence as a lawyer.
- Subverted to a degree: an early episode of NBC's Thirty Rock featured Tracy appearing on Late Night With Conan O'Brien in order to hype his addition to the cast of Show Within a Show The Girlie Show. However, it is strongly implied that the event is not considered noteworthy at all -- the Tracy character is a washed-up movie star, and The Girlie Show is unpopular. Instead, the appearance is the result of (in-universe) Executive Meddling by Jack, who wants Late Night to promote a low-rated NBC show. This has since become a regular habit of Jack, as he frequently meddles with NBC's The Today Show to make them promote whomever, or whatever, he wants.
- Caprica does this despite being set a long time ago in a star system far away through the clever use of Expies. Baxter Sarno (played by Patton Oswalt) is made out to be a cross between Jay Leno and Jon Stewart. He combines the former's comedy format with the latter's cutting insight, tendency to bring down Very Powerful People. He is mentioned as "tearing a new one" out of the Caprican Minister of Commerce. The target demographic is also similar: "a majority of college students get most of their news from Sarno".
There's also a number of TV-montages which frequently feature "clips" of Sarno. In the clips Expies of CNBC and CNN are featured prominently, usually commenting on Graystone Industries' latest woes.
- In the syndicated action/comedy VIP, Valerie Irons(Pamela Anderson) appeared on an episode of Leno as a guest, discussing her detective agency, when she received a call from one of her partners during the commercial break, tipping her off to a possible explosive device being planted on the Leno set. Irons found the bomb and managed to take it to an empty parking lot where it exploded harmlessly. Leno then quipped, "And we were going to bump you for Tony Randall!"
- On The Fairly Odd Parents, the Crimson Chin (voiced by Jay Leno) used to be a talk show host. On some occasions, his alias Chuck Indigo has been seen on TV much like Jay and resembles him. In one episode, he crashes onto the set of his talk show.
- The Simpsons
- Conan O'Brien appears in "Bart Gets Famous". Considering Conan has written more than a few episodes of The Simpsons, it's appropriate.
- Keith Olberman appeared on another episode of The Simpsons. Marge had started using her Tivo to edit out commercials, but felt guilty about not watching commercials. Olberman appeared in her dreams, calling her "Today's Worst Person in the world!" The bronze and silver went to the Devil and Mr. Burns, respectively.
- During the animated cartoon Dilbert, Jay makes a joke at Dilbert's situation.
Leno: "And you've heard about this guy? Well, he's sort of a guy. And he's reportedly a surrogate mother for an alien, hillbilly, robot, engineer, cow baby. (audience politely laughs) Michael Jackson already has an order in for three of them! (Kevin Eubanks laughs) Part cow, part engineer...now do you think it'll spend a lot of the nights surfing the internet and milking itself?"
- Parodied on Family Guy: One of the characters mentions that Brian's recent "affair" with Lauren Conrad has been on all the talk shows, followed by live-action clips of Jimmy Fallon, Craig Ferguson, and Jay Leno joking about it.
- In bro'Town, a New Zealand animated comedy, the role of Jay Leno is taken by Rove McManus, the Australian equivalent... I guess...
- A Mission Hill episode featured several talk shows discussing the inscrutable crisis that is in the background of the plot.
- The DVD movie Superman/Batman: Public Enemies featured a Jon Stewart Expy commenting on Lex Luthor's presidential bid in the opening minutes.
- The Leno Device was crucial to
Cartman'sJimmy's "fishsticks" joke's popularity, in the South Park episode of the same name.
- In Cars, Jay Limo jokes about Lightning Mc Queen.
- Ben 10: Ultimate Alien does one better with Will Harangue, violent right-wing mouthpiece who becomes integral to the show arc.
- Prey features Art Bell on his Coast to Coast AM radio program discussing the events of the game with various callers.
- Obligatory Whateley Universe example: In "Ayla and the Birthday Brawl", the big IPO that Phase has started by buying out Marvel Comics gets news coverage... including a joke about it by Dennis Miller while appearing on Bill Maher's show.