Leno Administers Guest-Appearance Absolution to Kanye West
Kanye West - Leno's new Hugh Grant.
NBC's newest primetime star Jay Leno hit ratings pay dirt Monday when West agreed to play Grant on the premiere of Leno's comedy/talk show.
Leno had booked West weeks earlier ago to perform with Rihanna and Jay-Z during the first episode of "The Jay Leno Show" -- NBC's low-cost answer to 10 p.m. drama series.
But for the better part of Monday, NBC was advising reporters Leno would not interview West about the previous night, when West hijacked MTV's Video Music Awards ceremony to protest a trophy win by Taylor Swift.
Leno would not interview West because it would break the show's protocol, NBC had advised -- a very hard thing to do on a show that, um, hasn't debuted.
But at some point before the show taped, plans changed and West sat down with Leno to give his version of Grant's 1995 "I did a bad thing" interview with Leno.
That had been Grant's answer to Leno's question "What the hell were you thinking?" when Grant appeared on "The Tonight Show" a couple of weeks after cops busted him for hooking up with a Hollywood hooker.
That interview was widely credited with solidifying Leno's ratings edge over CBS late night host David Letterman -- a position Leno continued to occupy until last May when NBC dumped him from "The Tonight Show" in favor of Conan O'Brien.
"It's been extremely difficult," West told Leno of his life since deciding it would be a great idea to jump on stage at the VMA's, grab the microphone from Taylor Swift -- who'd just won Best Female Video for "You Belong with Me" -- and proclaim, "Taylor, I'm really happy for you; I'm a let you finish, but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time" - as MTV cameras cut to Beyonce in the audience - almost like the whole thing had been staged. Which MTV swore it wasn't -- unlike that time last May when Sacha Baron Cohen had crash landed on Eminem's face at the MTV Movie Awards, and Eminem stormed out, and MTV let people think it was another of those incredible spontaneous MTV trophy-show moments, until a writer on the show blogged that it had all been staged.
Anyway, Swift had beat out Beyonce in the race for Best Female Video on Sunday and West felt the world needed to know he objected.
This is not to be confused with the time he stormed out of the American Music Awards in 2004 because he was not named Best New Artist, telling the press he'd been robbed. And who can forget the 2006 MTV Europe Music Awards, when West jumped the stage to protest his loss in one of that competition's derbies, noting his music video had cost a million bucks and had featured Pamela Anderson. You could see his point.
This time, West's routine did not go over so well; he was booed by the audience. Then, he posted an "apology" on his Web site and that did not go well either. Maybe because it went like this (only in all caps):
"I'm sooooo sorry to Taylor Swift and her fans and her mom. I spoke to her mother right after and she said the same thing my mother would've said. She is very talented! I like the lyrics about being a cheerleader and she's in the bleachers! I'm in the wrong for going on stage and taking away from her moment!"
So West had to write yet another apology for his web site. This time he compared himself to Ben Stiller, when Stiller had played a fictitious character who messes up in the flick "Meet the Parents," and then Robert De Niro, who plays the fictitious character's fictitious girlfriend's fictitious father, asks him to leave their pretend house.
"I only wanted to help people my entire life," West told Leno Monday on the very first episode of his new series.
"I've only wanted to give, and do something that I felt was right," West continued on his theme.
"It's actually someone's emotions that I stepped on and it was very, it was just rude. Period."
Leno, speaking for all of us, wondered when it actually occurred to West his gag was dying in the room. "Was it afterwards? As you were doing it?" Leno asked.
"Soon as I gave the mike back to her and she didn't keep going," West responded.
West said he was "ashamed" and that "it's actually someone's emotions that I stepped on and it was very - it was just rude. Period."
What happened was that "my dream of what awards shows were supposed to be caused" Swift hurt, he explained.
Leno patted West on the knee after making him tear up by asking the rapper what he thinks his mother would have said about his behavior Sunday.
And, he thanked West for showing up noting that after "things happen" celebrities usually have their publicists call up shows on which they're supposed to appear the next night to say "I'm sorry - my client is not available."
Of course, there is the school of thought that Leno would have been better off had West canceled. Rather than getting all Uriah Heep-y in West's presence, Leno might then have gotten off one or two priceless cracks about the very much in-the-news West story, which had dominated the cable news networks all day.
Instead, West got Leno to administer Guest-Appearance Absolution.
"I need to, after this, take some time off and analyze how I'm going to make it through the rest of this life - how I'm going to improve, because I am a celebrity and that's something I have to deal with," West said during Leno's primetime debut.
Yup -- really.
Lisa de Moraes
September 15, 2009; 3:05 AM ET
Categories: TV News
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