How I almost appeared on The Tonight Show.

Casual Friday. It’s already hot and sticky in L.A., and I’m writing this naked. Those are the facts, people. Just accept them.

On Casual Fridays I like to bunk off work and hand the Swami over to someone who writes better than I do, or at the very least has something better to say. Today that honor falls to a guy whose name I will have to cut and paste, because I can neither pronounce it nor spell it: James Poniewozik.

LenoHe’s written a fantastically informative article for Time magazine about the future of television. And right now, he posits, the future seems to rest on what happens next week when Jay Leno launches his new show five nights a week on NBC, replacing their old, costly, lumbering, expensive dramas that nobody was watching.

Most people are expecting this experiment to be a flop. The bulk of variety shows do, after all, go into a rapid tailspin and disappear. In the 1950s, we used to enjoy watching a mixed bag of crap. Nowadays, less so. Unless there’s a talent show element to it at least, such as American Idol, in which case we’ll watch crap forever.

Witness the Osbournes variety special – The Osbournes Reloaded – which Fox was extremely cockahoop about at the time, and which was meant to be the first of a series of six. Unfortunately, the premier was so mind-numbingly dreadful that the rest of them were never shown. Here’s a taste.

leno picSo now we’re getting Jay Leno, trying to salvage his post-Tonight Show glory.

I once received a phone-call from The Tonight Show, inviting me to be on as a guest. Somebody had dropped out, it was late in the day, and I lived close to their Burbank Studios. This was when I used to do handwriting analysis. One of Leno’s producers had seen me on The View, apparently, and thought I’d be fun. But first they needed me to do a quick audition please. “Sure,” I said. “Easy.”

I didn’t drive in those days, so I traveled to Burbank by bus. And I bet not many of Jay Leno’s guests ever did that!

When I arrived, I was taken into a small room by the producer who had me analyze her handwriting. The girl in question was a mess. She had huge emotional problems, I recall, and somehow it didn’t seem right or responsible, even for an audition, to make light of them. So I gave her a straight reading, which was pretty damn accurate, just not especially entertaining.

Midway through, the room darkens. This taller, older woman walks to the door, stands there with her arms folded, listens for five seconds, then blurts out “No” in a stern voices and strides away.

That was it. I was promptly shunted out, given a handshake – “Sorry.” – and told to leave. Clearly, I wasn’t Tonight Show material.

To make matters far worse, when I got home I took off my trousers and found a massive brown skid-mark down the back. Seems I’d sat in something on the bus! One of the many hazards of using the L.A. public transit system. Most times you spot it before you sit down; but sometimes you’re preoccupied with an audition and possibly appearing on The Tonight Show and you forget to look. Oh god. Nothing could have been more embarrassing. I’d walked around their offices, meeting people, saying hi, doing quick handwriting analyses for anyone who asked…and all the while I looked like I’d shat my pants. I still cringe even now.

Anyway, who knows if I’ll be invited onto Leno’s new show. Maybe that old bag who said no to my gifts before has retired now.

Of course, I don’t do handwriting stuff any more, but that’s okay. I have other talents. Yesterday, for instance, a producer emailed me, asking if I’d like to do the voice of the lead character in a cartoon for the web. A fun character. He’s a talkshow host. “The guy has a gun for a nose,” the producer explained, “and explosives for a chin….it’s called Gun Nose.”

Of course it is. What else?

I said maybe. But I’m not hopeful for it. Gun Nose? Really? Why on earth would a producer dream up a character called Gun Nose, then automatically think, “You know who’d be good for this? That guy who does reports on NPR. I forget his name…the idiotic one.” Weird. And a hoax, I’m sure.

In the meantime, take a look at the Time article. All very interesting. And don’t forget to watch when Jay invites me on his new show later this year as a guest. “Next we have a very funny and original man. Author, handwriting analyst, NPR contributor, and the voice of Gun Nose….Cash Peters.”

I thank you.

www.cashpeters.com

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