Jay Leno back on stage barely two weeks after burn incident
Jay Leno hates to be idle. Just over two weeks since he suffered third-degree burns in his garage, requiring doctors to cut away much of the skin on both sides of his face, the comedian was back on stage at his regular haunt, The Comedy and Magic Club in Hermosa Beach, California. “So tonight we have two shows—regular and extra crispy,” he joked to a packed house that had already been warmed up by longtime friends Arsenio Hall and Jimmy Brogan.
A crowd of local news reporters and paparazzi had waited for Leno to arrive at the club for his regular Sunday night show, which he has been performing at the Hermosa Beach fixture since the 1990s. The local police were there as well to keep order, having parked a black-and-white Jeep Wrangler in Leno’s traditional reserved spot in front of the club. It caused a minor embarrassment when Leno accidentally sideswiped one of the Jeep’s tires while trying to maneuver his Tesla around it. “Hey, at least people care,” he said backstage after threading his way through the thronging crowd with his wife Mavis.
Leno was under his 1907 White steam car on November 12, working to unclog a fuel line, when a spray of flaming gasoline rained down on him. “I saw it coming and I closed my eyes,” he recounted to me before going on stage. “I could feel it burning, and I said, Dave, I’m on fire.” Quick action by employees at the garage to smother the fire helped save Leno’s eyes and ears and, ultimately, his life.
When asked if the ordeal has been painful, Leno assured us “it’s not that bad.”
He shared a few pictures from his phone which can’t be published here. They show the bloodied and scalded mass that was his face when he arrived at the Grossman Burn Center in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles. The fuel burned his hands as well, and they remained scabbed and raw two weeks later. His face, however, looked almost as before.
“It’s all new, everything,” he said of his extensive skin grafts and plastic surgery. “Hey, I’m the new face of comedy!” Then he turned back to his friends in the club’s green room and shouted, “I’m not an animal, I’m a human being!” (In case you don’t know the ref, it’s a line from The Elephant Man.)
The crowd gave Leno a standing ovation, no doubt many surprised by how normal he appeared despite the grim tabloid headlines. Before launching into his regular set, he made a couple of jokes about his accident. “I’ve never really thought of myself as a roast comedian,” he quipped to laughs. “Actually, the most expensive part of the whole thing was the gasoline.”
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