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Leno Device

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Letterman works too.

"Assures us the events on screen received national attention by the appearance of Jay Leno on a television, who makes a joke about it."
Roger Ebert, Big Little Movie Glossary

"If it ain't on Leno, it didn't happen."

Sure, bloggers have blogged about it, the dead-tree media have gone on and on, the local TV news has flogged it to death, but it is not really news until Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien, Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, Jimmy Fallon, or Trevor Noah has taken notice.

This carries over to the in-show universes. How do you show President Bartlet's actions are getting a lot of press? Get Jay Leno to guest star on The West Wing and do a Show Within a Show mention of it. For slightly older shows or movies, Larry King may be substituted. Even older ones used Johnny Carson, and further back you'd get Jack Paar or even Milton Berle.

For news reports, see the Sister Trope Newscaster Cameo. Often part of a News Monopoly. Occasionally overlaps with Colbert Bump. See also Talk Show Appearance for characters appearing on a talk show in general.


    open/close all folders 

  • One of Geico's ads with the gecko has him on Larry King Live.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Fiction 

  • The Marvel Universe fanfic "Commentary" has The Daily Show's Jon Stewart and Ed Helms discussing the Superhero Registration Act and Spider-Man's unmasking.
    Jon Stewart [discussing J. Jonah Jameson]: "That's right... Peter Parker took photos. Of himself. And sold them to this man who never, ever wondered why this one guy could get nearly all the photos of Spider-Man... all the time."
  • DailyShowPonies is the author of a series of fanfics where Jon Stewart, on the advice of Princess Celestia, interviews many Equestrians for his talk show.

    Film — Animated 
  • Larry King as a bee version of himself in Bee Movie.
  • Leno appeared in the film Cars, joking about Lightning McQueen's disappearance, as a limousine named "Jay Limo".
  • Shark Tale features Katie Couric as news anchor Katie Current - "keeping it current!" - who shows up every now and then to report on Oscar's (faked) shark-slaying exploits. The version shown in the UK somewhat ruins the joke by having daytime presenter Fiona Phillips voice Current instead.
  • The DVD movie Superman/Batman: Public Enemies featured a Jon Stewart Expy commenting on Lex Luthor's presidential bid in the opening minutes.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In The Adjustment Bureau, the main character (a Congressman running for Senate) appears on The Daily Show.
  • Speaking of Dick Cavett (and Tom Hanks), Dick Cavett briefly mocks the initial boring nature of the Apollo 13 mission. This, of course, was before "Houston, we have a problem". Justified, in that the Cavett clip was archival footage that really did air just before the accident.
  • Battle: Los Angeles has major news coverage of the invasion by CNN, MSNBC, Fox and several other news outlets. This, in addition to characters talking on Skype, assures us that the movie takes place in our universe.
  • The film version of The Birdcage, has a brief clip of Leno making a joke about Senator Jackson's death during his monologue.
  • Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 has kind of an unusual example. In the universe of the film, The Blair Witch Project still exists as a movie, but unlike in real life, there's apparently no conclusive evidence as to whether it was a found footage film or a real documentary. To establish this, the opening has a montage of real life (if somewhat out-of-context) clips of the first movie being mentioned by Kurt Loder on MTV News and Conan O'Brien on Late Night, as well as being reviewed by Siskel & Ebert.
  • Bright: Early in the film, Daryl is shown watching an ork being interviewed on the Joe Rogan podcast who denounces his ork partner Nick.
  • In Contact, shortly after the message from the aliens is revealed to the world, Leno is shown making a joke about it. This film also featured sitting president Bill Clinton as himself. Clinton's appearances were actually spliced (rather expertly) from speeches on real-life issues, and he wasn't particularly happy about his "appearance" in the film. CNN Anchor Bernie Shaw was also in the film. Leno's segment was taken from a section of monologue about the discovery of extinct single-celled life forms on Mars, which occurred around the time the film was being made.
  • Leno appeared in the presidential fantasy movie Dave to remark on the president's newfound vigor. The movie has multiple montage scenes with Leno, other talk show hosts, and Washington political commentators. Oliver Stone appears on Larry King Live, spouting (correct) conspiracy theories, and Ben Stein shows up at a party held by one of the bad guys.
  • Leno is shown joking about the main character's plight in Delivery Man.
  • Larry King is used repeatedly in Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives! for this purpose (i.e., demonstrating the newsworthiness of the events in the film), as is ex-MTV veejay Martha Quinn. Each is shown several times talking about Eddie on television.
  • Ed of EDtv did an appearance on Jay Leno's Tonight Show because his 24/7 reality show was such a success.
  • Jon Stewart and The Daily Show turned up in Evan Almighty; this also doubled as a Shout-Out to the star, Steve Carell, who had previously been a staff member for The Daily Show. Former Daily Show correspondent Ed Helms also had a cameo as a skeptical reporter.
  • Jay Leno again, in The Film of the Series of The Flintstones.
  • Forrest Gump - Forrest has met Elvis, become a war hero, a millionaire, and has met a bunch of Presidents. But he really becomes a pop star with his appearance on The Dick Cavett Show.
  • In Get Him to the Greek, Aaron Green and Aldous Snow appear on The Today Show where Aldous announces his Concert at the Greek Theater. A stoned Aaron tells Meredith Viera among others that his Mom/Dad love their shit. Later, "Uncle" Joe Benson, one of the more famous DJs from Los Angeles-area classic rock radio station KLOS, appears promoting a live broadcast from the concert.
  • Larry King discusses the Ghostbusters on his radio talk show (the movie predates his hiring by CNN). In addition, Casey Kasem also appears (voice only) to discuss the Busters' exploits via an episode of American Top 40, and New York City talk show host Joe Franklin is shown interviewing Ray.
  • A whole montage of them in The Great Buck Howard. A subversion occurs as well when the title character is set to appear on Leno but is bumped for time.
  • Jimmy Kimmel joking about Hellboy in Hellboy II: The Golden Army.
  • Leno (again) appeared in In & Out to joke about the main character.
  • Larry King briefly discusses the fictional president's accomplishments in Independence Day, and the President's decision to remain in the White House after the arrival of the Alien Invaders becomes a topic on The McLaughlin Group. (The first daughter also mentions she was allowed to watch Letterman, but that's more of a Shout-Out).
  • Bill Maher, then-host of Politically Incorrect, turns up in the closing montage of John Q, amidst a flurry of talking heads discussing the main character's actions and what they say about the American healthcare system.
  • A variation appears in Jurassic World, when Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon plays himself, giving safety instructions for Jurassic World's gyrospheres.
  • Craig Ferguson appears in Kick-Ass to discuss the titular hero's arrival on the superhero scene.
  • In the Land of the Lost movie, Marshall has a disastrous interview with The Today Show's Matt Lauer.
  • Little Nicky features Regis Philbin bragging about beating an old woman on the street due to the influence of Cassius and Adrien.
  • At the end of The Long Kiss Goodnight, one protagonist pulls some strings to get the other an interview on Larry King Live.
  • The Robin Williams film Man of the Year features his presidential character being a special guest on Saturday Night Live, featuring then-Weekend Update anchors Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Amusingly enough, the movie was filmed during Fey's last season on SNL and released two days after 30 Rock started, so the movie was actually dated even before it came out. Just to keep it in-house, MSNBC anchor and politics junkie Chris Matthews was also in the film, revealing election returns.
  • The Martian: It's in the DVD Bonus Content rather than the film proper, but the cameo by Neil deGrasse Tyson is strongly implied to be a tie-in with Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey in-universe. A sort of print-media version of this trope is also used when Bruce Ng and a couple of Chinese rocket engineers appear on the cover of TIME.
  • Marry Me (2022): Kat and Bastian appear on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon to show that their duet and relationship buzz is getting a lot of traction.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In Iron Man, there's a sequence with Jim Cramer in which he reacts as he always does to a falling stock on his show Mad Money... except that said stock is that of Stark Industries after Tony declares the end of his munitions manufacturing.
    • Iron Man 2 repeats the trope, this time with Christiane Amanpour reporting about the aftermath of the battle between Iron Man and Whiplash at Monaco and Bill O'Reilly criticizing Tony for making Pepper CEO of Stark Industries.
    • Iron Man 3 does it again, this time featuring Bill Maher and Joan Rivers reacting to the unveiling of Jim Rhodes' new "Iron Patriot" identity. Deleted scenes features a look at these as if they were segments of the Real Time and Fashion Police proper.
  • In Mister 3000, Jay Leno and ESPN's Stuart Scott are both seen discussing news items pertaining to Stan Ross' attempt to resume his major league baseball career on their respective shows. Later in the movie, after Ross successfully got back to the major leagues, he appears as a guest on Leno's show.
  • Played with in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, when Jennifer struggles to stay awake by watching late-night television. She sees Dick Cavett interview Zsa Zsa Gabor, then abruptly transform into Freddy and attack her. It's unclear precisely when Jennifer dozes off, so whether the show was an actual broadcast she'd fallen asleep in the middle of, or a dream from the start, is equally unclear.
  • Not Okay: Todd and Aaron are used to emphasize just how much society hates Danni because of her lies, with them even leaking her address online!
  • Conan O'Brien appears as himself hosting his show in Now You See Me, interviewing Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine) via Skype.
  • Terry Benedict goes on "Oprah" at the end of Ocean's Thirteen.
  • In Oh, God!, Jerry doesn't get a lot of attention for his claims of talking to God until after he appears on the Dinah Shore Show.
  • During the opening montage of Pacific Rim, when Raleigh was talking about how Jaeger pilots were basically rock stars, this is evidenced by showing a pair of pilots appearing on a late-night talk show.
  • In Primary Colors, the Bill Clinton expy Jack Stanton is running for President when he gets embroiled in a scandal involving his wife's hairdresser Cashmere McLeod (based on the real-life allegations from Gennifer Flowers). We then see Bill Maher on Politically Incorrect starting his show by making every hairdressing-related sex pun he can think of.
  • At the end of Project X, Jimmy Kimmel is talking about the big party on his show, along with several real-life LA-area DJs.
  • Throughout The Siege, reporters and pundits like Daniel Shorr and Ariana Huffington (respectively) give in-universe commentary on events in the story.
  • The main characters of Space Cowboys make an appearance on Leno. This clip was taken from an actual Tonight Show episode, in which the actors appeared in character to promote the film.
  • The American version of State of Play features Chris Matthews on TV as if in a clip from Hardball. The scene where the congressman's wife addresses the press contains at least half a dozen Washington D.C. based reporters.
  • When Ted came to life, he became a media star for a while, even appearing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
    Johnny: I thought you would be taller.
    Ted: I thought you would be funnier!
  • Bill O'Reilly comments on a public opinion poll about Autobots in Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
  • Conan also appears in Vanilla Sky briefly, although doesn't interact with any of the main characters or talks about them (they're just watching him on TV). He ends up giving something of a Chekhov's Lecture since his guest explains the cryonic-freezing process Tom Cruise's character would end up using.
  • Watchmen features The McLaughlin Group (though portrayed by actors) doing a discussion of Dr. Manhattan.
  • Wayne's World 2: The beginning of the movie shows that Cassandra's musical career is beginning to take off big-time by having her be the musical guest on an episode of The Tonight Show.
  • In What About Bob?, Dr. Leo Marvin does a live interview on Good Morning America, which Bob ends up crashing.
  • One of the last jokes in Shaun of the Dead before the credits is a brief clip of Trisha, a contemporary daytime talk-show that was basically the Transatlantic Equivalent of Maury, in which the titular presenter is interviewing a woman who claims to still have a happy marriage despite her husband being a zombie.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 30 Rock:
    • Featured Tracy appearing on Late Night With Conan O'Brien in order to hype his addition to the cast of Show Within a Show The Girlie Show. However, it is strongly implied that the event is not considered noteworthy at all — the Tracy character is a washed-up movie star, and The Girlie Show is unpopular. Instead, the appearance is the result of (in-universe) Executive Meddling by Jack, who wants Late Night to promote a low-rated NBC show. This has since become a regular habit of Jack, as he frequently meddles with NBC's The Today Show to make them promote whomever, or whatever, he wants.
    • Two seasons later, Tracy appears on Larry King Live during the stock market crash and incites citywide panic while discussing places to hide money.
  • Arrested Development featured Jim Cramer upgrading the Bluth company stock to "Don't Buy". Season 4 not only uses Cramer on Mad Money to demonstrate the media buzz for "FakeBlock", but then shows him playing himself in-universe in Maeby's Show Within a Show horror movie Gangie 4.
  • Denny Crane in Boston Legal often appears on Larry King.
  • Breaking Bad: In the penultimate episode of the series, Walter White's former friends and cofounders of Grey Matter, Gretchen and Elliot Schwartz, appear on Charlie Rose after Walt's identity as the drug lord Heisenberg has been revealed to the world, to deny that Walt had any hand in the research and founding of Grey Matter. When Walt sees this on TV, he becomes furious, and this is what snaps him out of his Despair Event Horizon and influences him to return to Albuquerque to tie up loose ends.
  • The Boys: Translucent is shown appearing on The Tonight Show and talking to Jimmy Fallon about his powers, which Hughie remembers when Translucent attacks him, realizing that only his skin is invulnerable, not his insides.
  • Caprica does this despite being set a long time ago in a star system far away through the clever use of Expies. Baxter Sarno (played by Patton Oswalt) is made out to be a cross between Jay Leno and Jon Stewart. He combines the former's comedy format with the latter's cutting insight, tendency to bring down Very Powerful People. He is mentioned as "tearing a new one" out of the Caprican Minister of Commerce. The target demographic is also similar: "a majority of college students get most of their news from Sarno".

    There's also a number of TV-montages which frequently feature "clips" of Sarno. In the clips Expies of CNBC and CNN are featured prominently, usually commenting on Graystone Industries' latest woes.
  • Bill Maher again appeared on Dharma & Greg. Greg, who is running for Congress, gets caught having sex with his wife Dharma in a car after a fundraiser. The irony is that the juicy story helps his campaign immensely, since the people finally have a candidate who demonstrates good family values.
    Maher: Nobody knows what to make of this guy, Greg Montgomery. On the one hand, he was caught having sex, so we know he's not a Republican. But it was with his wife, so we know he's not a Democrat!
  • Doctor Who:
  • An interesting variation happened in an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air:
    • Will comes up with the idea of taking pictures of "Celebrity Houses At Night" so he can compile into a book of the same name (seriously). However, an unscrupulous editor takes a photo of Jay Leno pouring coffee down a drain, claims he's actually pouring oil and polluting the environment and sells it under Will's name. Naturally, Leno sues Will for millions of dollars. You expect this whole thing to be resolved without Leno actually showing up... until Will, with his characteristic nerve, manages to trick his way into appearing on The Tonight Show to set the record straight. After he does so and tries to stay for the following guest interview, he suddenly gets thrown out of the studio in the exact same manner as Jazz is thrown out of the Banks' house.
    • Leno appears again in the next season, after Hilary books a juror that Philip dismissed to appear on her talk show — who promptly went on a tirade about him on the air — to poke fun at the situation.
  • Hannah Montana reveals her true identity in a Tonight Show appearance in-universe, in the show's final season. Leno guests in the episode as himself.
  • House of Cards (US) season 3 opened with President Frank Underwood's chief of staff Doug Stamper watching him appearing on The Colbert Report. Due to the Netflix series' long production time, the episode was released three months after Colbert's show ended.
  • After Robin lands a helicopter when the pilot has a heart attack in season 7 of How I Met Your Mother, she becomes a local celebrity and even appears on David Letterman's show.
  • JAG:
    • Back when the show aired on NBC, Jay Leno comments on the events in the Pilot Movie in his monologue on The Tonight Show.
      "This just in, one of the Navy F-14 Tomcats shot down a couple of Serbian MIGs over Bosnia this afternoon. Listen to this, the radar intercept officer in the Tomcat was a woman! Boy, you thought getting shot down by a woman in a bar was bad! Oh my God!"
      "Another thing about that female aviator, now, this has got to be very embarrassing, to Bill Clinton and Dan Quayle, Now women their daughters' age have more combat experience than they do."
    • Later when it moved to CBS, in "JAG TV", Mac lands a publicly televized case which all of a sudden receives national attention. On a segment of The Late Late Show the then-host Craig Kilborn has this to say about Mac:
      "Now, officially, she's a colonel in the Marines. But to me, she's a major babe."
      [Kilborn holds up picture of Mac in a bikini.]
      "I think we now know why the Marines are first on the beach."
  • In Joey the titular character realizes he's made it when he gets the chance to appear on Leno. Hijinks ensue, but he gets there in the end. And calls Jay "Johnny".
  • Yet another Leno example: in an episode of Just Shoot Me!, Finch appears on The Tonight Show to talk about being "attacked" by a gorilla.
  • Lady Dynamite: Seth Meyers and James Corden joke about Maria's child militia scandal on their respective shows.
  • Inverted, when the animated Beavis And Butthead made a guest appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman (seen here).
  • The NBC soap opera Passions featured a dream sequence in which Jay Leno mocks socialite Gwen Hotchkiss' crumbling love life in his monologue. Leno was a big fan of the show while it was on the air.
  • Played for laughs on a segment on Rove about politics. When the question "What would life be like if we didn't have politics?" was asked, we cut to an episode of political satire The Chaser's War On Everything, where they had nothing to talk about.
  • Leno again, in the Seinfeld episode "The Shower Head".
  • There's an episode of Shark where a Serial Killer who escapes justice publishes an OJ-esque book about how he successfully defended himself against James Woods' prosecuting attorney character. The killer appears on Larry King Live to hype his book. Larry is portrayed fairly well, as he happens to be a friend of Woods' character, and he accuses his guest, pointblank, of being a Serial Killer.
  • Bill Maher, now host of HBO's Real Time, appears on network sister program True Blood, hosting a panel with Nan Flanigan similar to the ones on his program about Vampire Rights.
  • Retired News Anchor/Commentator Howard K. Smith appeared as himself in both the Miniseries and Weekly versions of the original V, giving update reports on the aliens' actions.
  • In the syndicated action/comedy V.I.P., Valerie Irons (Pamela Anderson) appeared on an episode of Leno as a guest, discussing her detective agency, when she received a call from one of her partners during the commercial break, tipping her off to a possible explosive device being planted on the Leno set. Irons found the bomb and managed to take it to an empty parking lot where it exploded harmlessly. Leno then quipped, "And we were going to bump you for Tony Randall!"
  • Referenced, sort of, in The West Wing. Leno guest-appeared as himself at a Hollywood fundraiser/party for the President, and C.J. specifically went over to thank him for going easy on Leo's recently-revealed drug problem. Leno deflects the thanks, saying that the White House gives him monologue material every night anyway, and continues that it would be really great if the President could ride his bicycle into a tree again, because that's his bread and butter...
    • Referenced again in the seventh-season episode "Welcome to Wherever You Are". Part of the episode deals with Congressman (and presidential cadidate) Matt Santos' upcoming appearance on The Tonight Show and his staff trying to avoid making the congressman look either silly or hackneyed on the show.
  • The Wings episode "The Team Player" involves Antonio, manning the Sandpiper ticket counter while Joe and Brian are attending a hockey game, refusing to let a star Boston Bruins player on the plane when he shows up right before takeoff. The Bruins lose the game and a public relations disaster ensues, capped off by the characters seeing Leno make a joke about the incident on The Tonight Show.

    Video Games 
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops II has Chloe/Karma showing up on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in the ending where she lives.
  • The news terminals in Deus Ex: Invisible War feature quick political interviews on a show called Talk Bullet, but the host of the show always cuts off the interviewee with the next question before he really gets a chance to answer the question.
  • Prey (2006) features Art Bell on his Coast to Coast AM radio program discussing the events of the game with various callers.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • An episode of Arthur has the characters being interviewed by a live-action Larry King in between the Two Shorts.
  • Ben 10: Ultimate Alien does one better with Will Harangue, violent right-wing mouthpiece who becomes integral to the show arc. Everything he says claims that Ben 10 is a menace and a threat to the Earth, despite proof that he's always saving it. When aliens finally take over the world en mass force in Ben 10: Omniverse, he's the first to jump ship and convince the people he was right. This came back to bite on the ass as later episodes showed his ratings have declined.
  • In Bro Town, a New Zealand animated comedy, the role of Jay Leno is taken by Rove McManus who is the Australian equivalent.
  • For some unfathomable reason, the pilot episode of the 2014 Danger Mouse series features Baron Greenback, now allegedly reformed, being interviewed by Jimmy Camel, which doesn't even make a good Parental Bonus in its country of origin because most English people have never even heard of Jimmy Kimmel Live!.
  • During the animated cartoon Dilbert, Jay makes a joke at Dilbert's situation.
    Leno: "And you've heard about this guy? Well, he's sort of a guy. And he's reportedly a surrogate mother for an alien, hillbilly, robot, engineer, cow baby. (audience politely laughs) Michael Jackson already has an order in for three of them! (Kevin Eubanks laughs) Part cow, part do you think it'll spend a lot of the nights surfing the internet and milking itself?"
  • On The Fairly Oddparents, the Crimson Chin (voiced by Jay Leno) used to be a talk show host. On some occasions, his alias Chuck Indigo has been seen on TV much like Jay and resembles him. In one episode, he crashes onto the set of his talk show.
  • Parodied on Family Guy: One of the characters mentions that Brian's recent "affair" with Lauren Conrad has been on all the talk shows, followed by live-action clips of Jimmy Fallon, Craig Ferguson and Jay Leno joking about it.
  • A Mission Hill episode featured several talk shows discussing the inscrutable crisis that is in the background of the plot.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Homer's Barbershop Quartet", the news of Chief Wiggum being let go from The Be-Sharps becomes fodder for Johnny Carson and Joan Rivers.
    • "Bart Gets Famous" has Conan O'Brien inviting Bart as a guest on his talk show after he becomes Krusty's new sidekick. Considering Conan has written more than a few episodes of The Simpsons, it's appropriate.
    • Occurs in "Homer Badman" after Homer is accused of molesting a babysitter and sparks a media frenzy.
    David Letterman: And the number one reference I'm running into the ground is... Homer Simpson!
    • In "Funeral for a Fiend", Marge had started using her TiVo to edit out commercials, but felt guilty about not watching commercials. She ends up having a nightmare where Keith Olberman calls her "Today's worst person in the world"; the bronze and silver went to the Devil and Mr. Burns, respectively.
  • The Leno Device was crucial to Cartman's Jimmy's "fishsticks" joke's popularity, in the South Park episode of the same name.
    • In season 19, the town undertakes efforts to gentrify after Mr. Garrison's xenophobic campaign rhetoric causes Jimmy Fallon to mock the town during his monologue.
  • We Bare Bears: In "Panda's Sneeze," a video of Panda doing a cute sneeze goes viral, culminating with him appearing on "Top of the Morning! with Tom and Kate." There, the hosts announce Panda's entrance into the "Cute-Off," a competition between internet animals to decide who's the cutest.


Mitch on Larry King Live

Mitch gets to go on Larry King Live!

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

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