OPINION COLUMNS

Last laugh with Leno a rite of passage

By Danielle Scroggins | Published Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Doritos guy is taking over “The Tonight Show?” What are they thinking? How can they possibly consider The Doritos Guy as a serious replacement for Johnny Carson? He’s funny, I guess, but “The Tonight Show?” How can he measure up to Carson – Carson is a classic!

Danielle Scroggins

Danielle Scroggins

These are comments I remember as Johnny Carson said his goodbyes to “The Tonight Show.” I was in high school as Johnny passed the torch to Jay, and vividly remember Bette Midler’s “One for the Road” tearful tribute.

At that time, “The Tonight Show” signaled two things for me: the news was over, and it was time for bed. I rarely watched the show, but knew some of the references my parents and their friends made about the various skits and bits Johnny performed regularly. In my eyes, it was “their show,” and for whatever reason, they adored Johnny.

It took awhile for them to warm up to Jay – maybe it took everyone awhile. I still wasn’t a regular watcher of the show, but did stay up long enough when I was home visiting to see a “Jaywalking” bit or two. In fact, it could have been that bit that finally won my parents over – I think they liked checking to see if my sister and I would qualify as Jaywalking Allstars. As if!

I have to admit, as I entered the grownup world and began actually watching the news, I also began to appreciate the post-news giggle before setting my alarm and attacking another work day. In fact, on a trip to California, my husband and I went so far as to stand in line for tickets to the show and attended a live taping. I guess we had become fans by that point – or maybe someone told us we should go. Either way, it was a fun experience, and one that roped me into the late-night talk show world – the world of Leno, Conan, Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert.

But nothing – and I mean NOTHING – ever compared to “Saturday Night Live,” and it still stands apart as King of Late Night. I don’t even remember becoming a fan of the show – it’s just always been there. Like air. Since forever.

Of course, some years were better than others, some casts better than others, but I always looked forward to the show. And, as Jimmy Fallon made his appearance, established his presence, and hosted the news – I was a fast fan. When he jumped ship to Late Night, not only did the Tonight Show signal the news was over, it also signaled that bedtime was still a few hours away – and there was still a giggle to add to the day. His improv skits and musical bits were instant classics – from thank-you notes to the history of rap.

I doubt “The Tonight Show” has any meaning to my kids at this point, as they are surely already in bed by the time it starts. However, they do have a fairly secure (yet censored) “SNL” education under their belts as the antics of Jimmy Fallon and other cast favorites have become woven into our family language.

Because of these perhaps sketchy parenting decisions, they won’t hear any skepticism from us about the change in host. I made them watch Jay’s last show as a rite of passage – to say goodbye to one generation and welcome another one. They will have this moment to reference as they mature and begin watching the news for more than snow-day alerts – perhaps even staying up a few minutes longer to watch “their parent’s show.”

When they do, they will realize the moment their parents became part of that grownup generation of “Tonight Show” viewers – the ones who watch the news for financial and political updates, check curfews, worry about “young people these days” and look forward to that late-night monologue to laugh some of the serious out of every day.

Thank you Jimmy Fallon, for easing that transition. We look forward to settling in “Tonight” and every night for The Show. #lastlatenight #lastleno #grownupisthenewcool #cantwaittogiggle #timeforbed #tonightshowtraditions #jimmyfallon

Scroggins is a Decatur resident, Decatur High School graduate, teacher and mother of three.

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