One night after retiring from 'The Tonight Show,' Jay Leno performs Friday at Van Wezel in Sarasota

Longtime 'Tonight Show' host plays a sold-out show to Van Wezel

mclear@bradenton.comFebruary 6, 2014 

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Jay Leno

MITCHELL HAASETH — © NBC Universal, Inc.

Even after his two stints, totaling more than 20 years, as host of "The Tonight Show," Jay Leno can still draw crowds of people to see him live.

Leno's Sarasota appearance, at 8 p.m. Friday, is sold out.

It's his first stage appearance after stepping down from his gig on "The Tonight Show." He was the host for 22 years (except for a few months in 2009 and 2010 when Conan O'Brien took over). He's hosted the show for longer than anyone other than Johnny Carson, who hosted for 30 years. New host Jimmy Fallon will have to hold the job until 2036 to surpass Leno's tenure.

But Leno's association with "The Tonight Show" actually went back several years earlier. He was a frequent guest comic on the show, and eventually became Carson's "permanent guest host." (As Penn Jillette pointed out, that's a double oxymoron, with three words each contradicting the preceding one.)

Even while he was hosting "The Tonight Show," Leno kept performing live all over the country. Reviews of his recent shows have compared them to extended "Tonight Show" monologues, with a series of short jokes about current news stories and celebrities.

He hasn't talked much in recent shows about leaving "The Tonight Show," but maybe that will change now that's he's done, especially since Leno has said he's not leaving the show completely voluntarily.

Details: 8 p.m. Feb. 7, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Tickets: Sold out. Information: 941-953-3368, www.vanwezel.org.

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