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Renowned TV personality Jay Leno is one of the US military’s closest friends, frequently featuring military personnel and equipment on his various television shows.  From block-booking Marines for his Thanksgiving episodes to advertising next-gen Army technologies, the relationship between the military and Jay Leno is a fruitful one for both parties, reaching large audiences and associating the military with Leno’s particular brand of cheesy, good-natured twaddle.

The entertainment liaison office reports are littered with references to Leno, with regular entries recording multi-branch participation in The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, which ran more or less continuously from 1992 to 2014.  As entries from both the Army and Marine Corps note, Leno hosted a regular episode around Thanksgiving/Veterans Day where the entire studio audience was made up of members of different military branches.

US Marine Corps entertainment liaison office report entry on Tonight with Jay Leno, 2010

This was followed by a dinner, paid for by the show and also hosted by Jay, attended by hundreds of military audience members.

US Army entertainment liaison office report on Tonight with Jay Leno, 2010

Even as audiences dwindled and Jay came towards the end of his run on The Tonight Show, this annual event was maintained.  One report from the Army shows how they worked ‘to ensure maximum representation for the Army’ on the 2012 episode.

US Army entertainment liaison office report on Tonight with Jay Leno, 2012

Indeed, Leno was considered such a good friend to the military that when, in 2011, the Army were putting together a project around a Medal of Honor recipient they discussed ‘national appearance on evening talk show, e.g., Leno, Conan, etc.’ as though this would simply be a given – they’d just ask Jay and he’d say yes.

US Army entertainment liaison office report, 2011, on getting Medal of Honor recipient on Leno

This is how the relationship between the establishment and the media operates – bottom-feeders like Jay suck up to the military, an established centre of power, and help them access audiences with their StratComm (Strategic Communications) messaging.  This elevates the bottom-feeder and helps turn them into a star and then maintain that star power.  Oh look, Jay’s right there next to the guys he’s telling us are heroes, they must be heroes and Jay must be cool.  Particularly in America, you cannot go wrong showing off the military and standing side by side with them in front of a tank or warship.

The Military and Jay Leno’s Garage

Hence why, when Jay was finally given the boot by The Tonight Show, he had already started up another quitessential American TV show – Jay Leno’s Garage, where they show off vehicles.  Gotta keep that vehicle industry going, gotta keep that oil consumption up, because it’s not like it’s becoming increasingly expensive in both financial and energetic terms to actually get the shit out of the ground, not to mention it is perhaps the most polluting industry in the world, right?

However, the US Army are trying to cut back on fuel use, or at least find ways to be more fuel efficient, because all this invading oil-rich countries doesn’t actually help the human race produce more oil, as it turns out.  The energy return on energy invested (EROI) for the war in Iraq, for example, must be a negative one.  Put simply, NATO spent more energy invading Iraq than Western oil companies will ever be able to extract from the country.  So when they decided to engage in a little military-industrial product placement and highlight the FED (fuel efficient demonstrator, a prototype vehicle) they turned to Jay and had him introduce it to the public.

I’m not sure about the camouflage QR code on the front, it jars my eyes, but hey, at least it won’t cost as much energy to kill people now.  This is the sort of thing you get with Democrat governments – ugly, stupid, a marginal gain with no concern for moral consequence.  Nevertheless, the success of this effort led to the Navy leaping on board too, filming an episode in 2016 for Jay Leno’s Garage.

US Navy entertainment liaison office report on Jay Leno’s Garage, 2016

Drunk Marines and Jay Leno

However, it’s the 2005 episodes of Tonight with the military and Jay Leno where we get a proper glimpse behind the scenes, courtesy of a file from the Marine Corps’ archives.  It covers two filmings – one in June for Independence Day and another in November for Thanksgiving.

The documents include internal memos and faxes between NBC and the Marines, included one confirming the group booking for the taping of the June episode for 80 Marines.  It is a standard letter sent out by NBC, but the paragraph on cancellation is scrubbed out and an NBC producer has handwritten ‘Don’t even THINK of cancelling’.  Evidently, they had previous problems with not getting a full studio audience, even on military-supported episodes.  The humiliation of doing a Salute to the Troops and half the troops don’t even bother to show up was not something NBC were willing to countenance.  Attached to this fax is an information sheet outlining the process on the day, which says:

Please be sure to bring the number of people specified on your confirmation sheet. For this show especially we are counting on you to provide us with a full house.

It appears they had some problems during the June taping for the July 4th episode, because when November rolled around and Leno was back, asking for a military audience for his Thanksgiving show, Sergeant James Goff of the entertainment liaison office sent out an email containing strict instructions on behaviour.  This included having to fill their designated slots to ensure a full audience, not pestering the show staff to be able to switch seats, not bringing friends or relatives and not bringing cameras.

The email also included two strong warnings, namely that any failure to turn up would be reported to the Chain of Command and ‘you will be barred from future tapings’.  The other stated ‘Strictly no alcohol prior to taping’ and that ‘NCOs, SNCOs must enforce this rule’.  The email then states, underlined, ‘Marines and alcohol have embarrassed us before’.

Sgt James Goff email on Marine Corps filming on Jay Leno, 2005

The file does not contain an after-action report so we cannot be certain that the Marines turned up in uniform, in the right number and/or sober.  But the relationship between the military and Jay Leno persisted for over a decade afterwards, so it seems a handful of drunks and empty seats couldn’t break the bond between one of the cheesiest chat show hosts of all time and the merchants of death culture at the entertainment liaison offices.

Documents on US Military and Jay Leno

US Marine Corps file on Marines filming on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, 2005

US Army entertainment liaison office reports 2010 to 2015

US Marine Corps entertainment liaison office reports 2008 to 2015

US Navy entertainment liaison office reports 2012 to 2017