I was absolutely stunned when my phone rang and the voice on the other end was none other than the host of NBC's "The Tonight Show", Jay Leno.
I shouldn't say that I was completely surprised, as I've always read that Mr. Leno was one of the nicest guys in the entertainment industry. For him to pick up the phone and have a fifteen minute conversation with someone who just sent him a letter is what astounded me. That's unheard of, and I genuinely appreciate it. (I told him that I will someday return the favor and thank him personally as a guest on his show.) It showed me that writing letters to celebrities really works.
Because I wasn't expecting his call, I didn't have any means of creating an exact transcript of the phone conversation, but here are some highlights of the pearls of wisdom that Mr. Leno had to share with me:
- Work, work, work! (Mr. Leno's work schedule is legendary, as he rarely takes a day off from his show, and also does hundreds of stand up dates throughout the year. His theory is that work is the only way to build up necessary skills and experience that books alone can't convey.)
- Keep yourself grounded in real life, don't get lost in the business. Whether it's hobbies or a family, just have a life outside show business.
- Be yourself! Earn show business type money, but don't live a show business lifestyle by blowing it all on frivolous things.
- If you can be an actor or comedian for seven years without something stopping you, then you can make it in the business. Most people are stopped short by negativity, doubters, addiction, distraction, pessimism, self defeat or other things. Overcome those barriers and you'll do well.
- Never turn down a gig unless it goes against your personal beliefs. Work is work and every experience will bring you further along.
- Always keep your personal feelings and politics out of the discussion when you are performing or hosting. Don't let people know what your true opinions are or you'll lose some of your audience.
I sent him a thank you card as soon as our conversation was over.