Jay Leno brings comic relief to battered Motown

Tue Apr 7, 2009 11:15pm EDT
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By David Bailey

DETROIT (Reuters) - In a nod to the gloomy economy, late-night comedian Jay Leno hosted a show on Tuesday to lift the battered spirits of Detroit residents facing steep unemployment and a faltering auto industry.

The host of NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," a celebrated car buff, presented a "comedy stimulus plan" to a packed house at a suburban Detroit arena that is home to the Detroit Pistons professional basketball team.

"The idea is just come on down, hopefully forget your troubles for a while, other people are in the same boat as you are and maybe take some of the weight off, that's all," Leno told reporters beforehand.

Introduced by hometown hero Kid Rock, Leno launched into an 80-minute monologue aimed at anyone and anything from U.S. presidents to air travel and life in Los Angeles.

He riffed on cars, the price of gasoline and ads for brands like Jaguar and Lexus, but steered clear of Detroit, or the struggling U.S. carmakers, as a butt of his jokes.

Leno thanked union members, whose parents and grandparents "created the middle class in America" and told a roaring audience "God bless Detroit."

"It's bad, but it's not that bad. Things will turn around, they have before." he said.

The arena was set up for about 15,000 seats, and all the tickets were distributed for shows on Tuesday and Wednesday. Parking and soft drinks were free and other items were discounted as sponsors chipped in to offset the costs.   Continued...

<p>Comedian Jay Leno hosts the 30th Carousel of Hope gala in Beverly Hills, California October 25, 2008. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>