LOS ANGELES, CA. (WECT) – Jay Leno and Kevin Eubanks are working together again on television. Leno, who hosted The Tonight Show for more than two decades, is hosting a new comedy show You Bet Your Life, and his longtime bandleader will join him as a co-host. The show will feature contestants trying to win up to $5,000 by answering a series of trivia questions. Viewers in southeastern North Carolina will be able to watch You Bet Your Life weekdays at 2:00 p.m. on Fox Wilmington, starting September 13.
“I had an idea to reboot the show and the only person I wanted with me was Kevin,” Leno said during an interview from Los Angeles. “I said, ‘Do you want to do it?’, he said, ‘Yes!’. Fox liked the idea. The studio liked the idea. It seemed like a natural pairing, and it turned out to be exactly that. It worked out great.”
Leno shared that he and Eubanks developed a chemistry from the time the jazz musician joined The Tonight Show band in 1992. Eubanks became the Music Director in 1995 and remained until 2010. Eubanks says the two meshed again quickly when work began on You Bet Your Life.
“It makes it kind of easy once we get each other’s instinctive way of feeling each other’s rhythm, how to talk to each other or talk to the contestants, things like that,” Eubanks said. “But it’s the same as if you’re playing with musicians that you’re used to. You may not work for them for a year or two years or something like that. But when you get back together, the same things are always there because you are play off each other and you trust each other with what to do. All of that works into the show. It’s just developed and developed, and it just gets better and better.”
The reboot is bringing back the Secret Word from the original television version of You Bet Your Life, hosted by Groucho Marx, that aired on NBC from 1950-1961. If either of the contestants says the Secret Word that Eubanks will reveal at the beginning of their game, they’ll take home an extra $500.
“I liked Groucho’s show because you’re just talking,” Leno said. “There’s no tricks here. There’s no gimmicks to it. It’s just human interaction, which is not something you see a lot of anymore. Everybody’s on Twitter or email. The idea that you’re actually having a conversation with people almost seems revolutionary. The thing that’s really sold this show is the fact that there’s no politics. I found that nothing divides an audience, or Thanksgiving, or Christmas, more than politics.”
Eubanks provided the theme music for You Bet Your Life, and although there won’t be musical numbers in this 30-minute show, the guitarist and composer does get the chance to use his creativity in other ways, such as interacting with Leno and the contestants.
“There was a woman who came on, and I saw in the notes that she was an opera singer,” Eubanks recalled about one contestant. “So, during the break I said, “When we come back, if you have an answer to a question to win some money, sing the answer instead of just saying it!’. When we came back, here comes this beautiful operatic voice that came out of nowhere and people loved it. So, if you listen to people, give them a chance to be themselves, she was so much brighter after that because it was an acceptance thing. So. a lot of times you use your musical instinct to somehow contribute to the show.”
Leno compares the new show to the JayWalking segments from The Tonight Show. He also plans to bring back some other favorites, like Headlines, along with a short monologue of jokes. Leno also hosts and produces the CNBC series Jay Leno’s Garage, which is in its’ fifth season exploring the world of automobiles, and hearing stories of the guests behind the wheel. This new opportunity is proof he plans to continue entertaining audiences for years to come.
“If it’s your hobby and you enjoy it, it’s not work,” Leno says. “It’s a great job. You know comedy is like golf. You can do it until you’re 80 if you play the game correctly. It’s fun to interact with people. I never understand people in show business that refuse to sign autographs or don’t want to meet the public. ‘Why are you in this business?’ It’s the same thing you’d do for free, yet you get paid for it. It’s what I used to do in school, it’s what I used to do in college. Then, I got out and ‘Oh, now I’m getting paid for it! Let’s keep doing that!’ And I enjoy it.”
Click here to learn more about how to be a contestant on You Bet Your Life. I hope you enjoy the conversation with Jay and Kevin as much as I did.
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