A bit of Johnny on Leno’s ‘Tonight Show’ desk

Amy Poehler tried to invoke a bygone era in late-night TV when she smoked a cigarette and sipped a martini on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” Wednesday night. In fact, that’s Johnny Carson’s cigarette box on Jay’s desk. Photo: NBC

By ADAM BUCKMAN

NEW YORK, Sept. 20, 2012 — Who knew Jay Leno was so sentimental?

Or maybe it has nothing to do with him at all.  Maybe it was someone else who decided it might be nice — perhaps in some kind of talismanic sense — to place something of Johnny Carson’s on Leno’s “Tonight Show” desk, perhaps as a silent, subtle symbol of history, consistency, good luck, or …  whatever.

Forgive me if you already knew this.  Maybe it’s even (somewhat) common knowledge.  But I  have long prided myself on knowing a lot about “The Tonight Show,” even small trivia such as this.  Nevertheless, I never knew until Wednesday night’s “Tonight Show” that the oblong wooden object seen night after night on Leno’s desk is Johnny Carson’s old cigarette box.

Leno said so, while interviewing guest Amy Poehler, who remarked that she wondered what it must have been like in the 1960s and ’70s when guests (and Carson too) smoked on “The Tonight Show.”

“Remember when people used to smoke on talk shows?” Poehler asked.

“I do remember that,” Jay said.  “When I first started, they used to smoke — because this used to be Johnny’s cigarette box,” he said, casually holding up the object.  “Now, legally, we have to have pens in it!”  (You can watch the Leno-Poehler segment HERE.)

This particular cigarette box is probably not Johnny’s first one because there’s a famous story about another cigarette box, from a time in the 1970s when Johnny came back from vacation and found that the cigarette box on his desk was broken.  The culprit was his guest-host from the evening before — Don Rickles.  YouTube has a clip of this here:

Contact Adam Buckman: adambuckman14@gmail.com

Read Adam Buckman’s book: “JERK: How I Wasted My Life Watching Television” … Read a sample on his Amazon book page HERE … Then order it today!

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