Paul Castronovo: Lessons from Jay Leno

Jay Leno, Paul Castronovo, Wil Shriner

From Harmon ...

Many of you know I have been friends with Paul and Young Ron since 1995 and the infamous Kidd Kraddick "bus tour of Dallas." I never dreamed I would be working with them every day. When your friend gets really excited - enough to write an article for the newspaper about an experience - the BEST idea is to share it with other friends ... you.
Steve Harmon

Paul Castronovo: Lessons from Jay Leno

I was going on about 4 hours sleep on Saturday, and after helping out with the Dolphin Cancer Challenge early in the morning was looking forward to catching up on some much needed rest. I cranked down the AC, hit the couch and was ready to Netflix the day away, when my phone rang.

"Hey, where's a good Northern Italian restaurant in your neck of the woods?" It was comedian/director Wil Shriner, a great friend and someone I talk to multiple times throughout the week as he is a regular on the Paul and Young Ron Show. "Northern Italian? I'd say Arturo's, not sure if they're open for lunch though. Want me to check for you?" Lots of friends call me about restaurant recommendations, so it's not that abnormal for me to run down this information, but I knew this was different. Wil Shriner was in the car with Jay Leno.

Wil and Jay go back nearly 40 years in comedy, and Jay was in town for the Concourse D'Elegance charity event at the Boca Raton Resort.

"Yeah, call me back," said Wil. Arturo's wasn't open for lunch, but I knew Mario's Osteria was, it's good and close to where they were driving. I called Wil back, "Arturo's is closed but I had lunch at Mario's recently and it's really good." Wil said, "Perfect, where is it?" I gave him the quick directions, then I heard the words I was hoping for, but certainly wasn't expecting, "Hey Paul, why don't you join us?" The voice was unmistakable, it was Jay Leno. "Sure guys, I'd love to," I tried to say calmly.

My wife said that I "yelped." I say it was a school girl scream, whatever it was, a loud sound came from my mouth, then I added, "Wil called, I'm going to lunch with Jay Leno!"  Any thoughts of a nap went right out the window. This is bucket list stuff. Look, I'm in the entertainment industry and have gotten friendly with lots of famous people, but things just got kicked up a bit. I host a talk show. Jay hosted the most successful talk show in the history of television, The Tonight Show and for most of those 22 years he dominated the ratings. He's a comedy legend, and I love comedy and Jay as well. As I neared the restaurant, I just had one thought: try not to spill anything on your shirt.

I was so excited that I called my parents on the way over, "My Son is having lunch with Jay Leno!" My Mom blurted out. "Who are you talking to," I asked. "The women at the pool," said Mom. "Phyllis wants you to tell him that she misses him on The Tonight Show." "Hey Jay, nice to meet you. Phyllis from my parents complex in West Boynton misses you on the TV," finally I had my opening salvo. "I'll call you later, Mom. I'm at the restaurant," I said.

There's always that moment when you meet a famous person that you feel as if you know them. You don't. But boy, seeing Jay Leno sitting in the booth across from me ordering the chicken Parmesan just like one of my idiot high school buddies would, was down right freaky. Thankfully, Jay is a pro and made me feel at home within seconds.

"Glad you could get away," said Jay. I replied, "I was part of a big bike ride this morning, so my afternoon was free." Then Jay Leno nailed me ... "A bike ride? You got winded walking into the restaurant!" We all laughed. He and Wil then told stories and traded barbs and punchlines for the next 2 hours. I got a few good lines in. When Wil excused himself to go to the bathroom, leaving Jay and I alone at the table, I looked over at him and said, "Whadya say you and I get out of here?" He cracked up. He's a regular guy. He's one of us. It's just that he flies private jets, owns 300 cars and motorcycles and is beloved around the world.

If you're wondering, he picked up the check and later on, when I called Wil Shriner for a recap, I asked, "Did he like me, does he want me to come out to California and hang out, does he want to put me on TV?" Wil answered, "Jay said, nice guy, next time I come back, we've gotta go for a ride on his boat". I told that to my wife, now she's remodeling the home, just in case.

PS. Jay Leno on his love, comedy. Write Joke. Say Joke. Get Check.

Paul Castronovo.


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