KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Jay Leno era on the Tonight Show ends Thursday night with his appearance as host. But the comic has roots in Kansas City, even years before he took over for Johnny Carson.
Leno's jokes have had Americans laughing each night for years, bringing him much success. Former promoter Hearne Christopher met Leno at the cusp of that success.
"His management was focusing on markets, large markets that had NBC affiliates because he wanted to build his brand in those markets," Christopher said.
In April 1986, Christopher was responsible for booking Leno's first Kansas City gig at the Music Hall. During his visit, Christopher was Leno's right hand man, taking him around town. He served as an eyewitness to the fun.
"Jay got up right in the middle of breakfast being served to him and everything else and spent 10 to 15 minutes schmoozing this table filled with lottery women," Christopher said.
He also recalled the funnyman's competitiveness nature.
"I mean listening to him in the back seat talking to the other comic, he character assassinated everybody that was half way good because he was competitor," Christopher said.
Six years after his Kansas City debut, Leno became the host of The Tonight Show— a spot he's held for more than 20 years.
Now as Leno's steps down for good, Christopher is sure this won't be the comedian's last gig.
"He's too high energy to just tuck it away and lay back and channel surf and count his blessings. He'll be doing something," he said.
Leno returns to Kansas City next month where he'll perform him his stand-up routine at Bartle Hall for the International Auto Show opening night benefit. All the proceeds from the benefit will go to Children's Mercy Hospital.
Tickets for the benefit go on sale for $75 on February 14 on ticketmaster.com or at the Municipal Auditorium box office which include general admission seating, a silent auction and access to the Kansas City International Auto Show.