Chili Challis - Lifetime comedian, comedy writer and coach
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FLASH BACKS FROM MY 'TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO'

                                           
"Narrow hallways leading to tiny offices, or open a door and find yourself in a studio big enough to park an airliner".

                ~
"Every morning entering the Burbank Studios under the NBC Peacock sign and then past the huge mural of Johnny Carson.

Sometimes it felt as if  I'd entered a magic place, sometimes it seemed I had chased a rabbit down a hole".
                                                                                                                         
~
"Through fanatical work and obsession I left the world of stand up comedy and my experiment in morning radio in the mid 90's and reached a goal to become a network TV 
comedy writer for a historical television studio- NBC, right in the heart of the 'Valley of the Stars' Burbank, California. Arriving at the studio that first day I thought I was still a little 
in shock, I didn't know what to expect.
~
In 20 mins after having arrived I was in my tiny office on the second floor (use to be a prop space for the 'Red Foxx show' or at least that's what I was told). But there I was 
picking through some 'Headlines' for Leno for that night's show and writing up some monologue jokes. The entertainment goliath that is the Tonight Show waits for no one. ;). 
~
No big welcome, no meetings...right to work in search of the funny. I was at the show for weeks before much of the crew caught on that I was the new hippie writer. 
My first show I hit the monologue and some headlines. I was off to a good start and definitely had a first class seat on cloud nine. 

~
"The job became like any other job after a while and btw, I don't particularly like jobs. There were personalities I got along with and a few I didn't.
~
Some of the comedy I encountered was...well, in the world of stand up would be considered hack or at least too easy, tired. Some was excellent. The writers for the most part weren't comedians, 
they were 'professional' writers and I think that stilted my relationship with many of them. I wished there had been more comics writing for the show. I found it difficult to relate to 
people that had written TV sitcoms and for magazines, couldn't really talk shop with them. But I guess all in all I learned a great deal from different approaches.
~
That's why I have always referred to my days at NBC as attending University of Television. Chalk it all up to a positive. 
I regret I didn't make more friends on the show. I had what I thought to be my circle of writers and some crew but if anything ever came down that's not the types that will 
back you up. :) Hollywood isn't big on backing anybody up if it's going to cause waves.
       
"While I'm on regrets I wish I had done more for the show, I wish I had had more fun with the entire process....been more of my sillier self. 
I wish I had pushed to put more of me (my comedy) into some things....the Tonight Show and me would have been better off for it. 
I did what I did and got many things on but I'm certain it could have been better. Maybe that is always how you feel about projects". 
                                                                                                                                   
~

"Worked on the bit and sketch team but continued to write jokes for the monologue....a little agreement Leno and I had. I'd do everything. I don't think the 
writing supervisor at that time got that memo though".
~
                           
"Had a surreal life working and writing jokes for not only Leno but adding things to scripts for Gilbert Gottfried, Fred Willard, Michael Caine, Arsenio Hall and many many more comics, actors and political figures (George Bush, John McCain, etc) .
~                        
Even had jokes performed by the space shuttle Discovery astronauts while in orbit around the globe, that was awesome". 

~
" '99 in front of Johnnie Rockets in West Hollywood I gave Kid Rock his first national tv exposure in a 'Jay Walking' segment. 
I still have the CD he gave me..wish I had had him sign it. But who knew?

~

"I knew I was in show business when one sunny afternoon in the parking lot of the Oakwood Apts I saw Usher swing in and drop off some friends. 
That doesn't happen everyday...except LA".
~
                           
"I liked the sign on the gate as you left the Oakwood...it read, "Smile! It's Show Time!!! Some days that was difficult to muster" 

~

 "While I'm on it. Edd Hall was a great guy to work with. Funny!!!" 
"So was Kevin Eubanks!" 

~

"I am satisfied that my part is forever etched into television history. I was a writer for NBC's 'Tonight Show'. I have joined the ranks of the few, the proud and the funny!"

Thanks to Jay Leno! 

more later...... 
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2 Comments to FLASH BACKS FROM MY 'TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO':

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Marty Smith on Wednesday, February 05, 2014 3:11 PM
Nice. During the writer's strike, Leno wrote his own monologues and I got the idea he was a pretty good comedy writer. Thanks for the insight.
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Teri Foltz on Wednesday, February 05, 2014 4:44 PM
See? This is what I like so much about you, Chili. You are so genuine. And honest. This was fun to read because it had been painted with the brush of ego
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