WHY POLL RATINGS WERE STILL LOW AFTER JAY’S APPEARANCE ON OPRAH
Even though Jay Leno went on the Oprah Show to try to set the record straight and reveal that it was not his decision, but rather the network executives decision to give him his old job back, based on Oprah’s post show poll results, viewers people still weren’t convinced. According to her poll, they still appeared to view Jay as the bad guy who took away Conan’s show. In fact an overwhelming 94 percent felt he should have walked away as Conan did.
I believe that a lot of the public’s perception had a great deal to do with what was and what was NOT revealed through Jay’s body language.
Body language wise, the good news is that Jay appeared to be honest, genuine, and showed humility in his responses .
But the bad news is that his lack of verbal and vocal passion about what took place, his lack of eye contact, his looking away and not looking on Oprah’s direction when he was asked hard hitting questions, his facial expression, tone of voice alienated the audience Most of all, his lack of tone and emotion in answering pertinent questions spoke volumes.
ONLY A VOCAL CRACK OF GENUINE EMOTION REVELED
Perhaps the most damaging aspect of his television presentation was Jay’s lack of displaying of genuine heartfelt emotion. Oftentimes he tried to disguise and filter his true emotions through humor. Even when he talks about how executives came into his dressing room in 2004 to tell him that they were going to replace him with Conan, he chuckles as he tells Oprah it was “pretty shocking”. His chuckle dilutes the impact of this “pretty shocking” event so the viewer doesn’t feel the full impact he is trying to relay.
There was only one millisecond when Jay showed genuine heartfelt emotion during the interview. It was when he responds to Oprah’s query as to how he felt after he was told this by executives. He said “ It broke my heart. It was only then that we her the crack of Jay’s voice reflecting his sadness and emotion. But that was the end of showing any kind of emotion. After that glimpse of real emotion, all we heard for the rest of the interview was a detached monotone.
JAY NEEDED TO “WEAR HIS EMOTIONS ON HIS SLEEVE” FOR OPRAH
Unfortunately, I don’t think that the interview Jay did endeared him to viewers. In fact, it may have even hurt him in the long run. When Jay said during the interview, “I’m not a person who carries my emotions on my sleeve “he was not kidding.
That statement said it all! He certainly did not wear any of his emotion on his sleeve during the interview- something he should have definitely done for Oprah viewers.
That would have made people relate to him much more. Instead, his detached monotone which was in stark contrast to the animated tone we are used to seeing when Jay does his monologue or interviews with guests . His detachment and lack of emotion, especially during crucial topics like whether he reached out to Conan was off-putting to many.
Had he sounded more emotional, more inflected and less distant, perhaps he could have persuaded more of those viewers who were on Team Conan and received a more positive reaction.
OPRAH’S HARD HITTING QUESTIONS LEFT JAY UNEASY
Jay’s interview with Oprah was perhaps the most difficult thing he ever had to do in his entire career and it clearly showed.
Having the tables turned where he was in the hot seat was clearly uncomfortable for him. You could see it throughout the interview. Unlike his interviews with his own guests, which are peppered with humor and lightheartedness, the tone of this serious interview was the complete opposite.
There was no pussyfooting around as Oprah got right to the guts of the matter. She went straight for the jugular with her hard hitting blunt questioning. Jay was clearly uncomfortable. His body language confirmed it.
JAY’S BODY LANGUAGE TELLS OF DISCOMFORT
The lengthy pause time that he used to think up an answer, his lack of eye contact with Oprah, his looking down, raised eyebrows, shoulder shrugs, hand on chin, hand over mouth often saying “you know” as a signal for Oprah’s approval, eye squints, nose wrinkling, and use of analogy to deflect the true heart felt emotion of what happened, were all signals that Jay was out of his element and comfort zone.
His constant looking away and looking down often reflected his embarrassment and discomfort.
The main tells of Jays hand over his mouth or on his chin indicated that he was holding back and didn’t want to be there or talk about what had happened. Jay also held on to his legs throughout the interview which indicated that he was bracing himself for the upcoming difficult questioning that laid ahead of him.
NOT REACHING OUT TO ‘FRIEND” CONAN DOES NOT SIT WELL WITH VIEWERS
Oprah asked Jay, “Were you and Conan friends?” Jay replied “Yes,” ”We talked many times” after those transition talks in 2004.
Oprah also asked Jay if he reached out to Conan.
Jay was clearly taken aback by this question as you see him squint his eyes and crinkle of up nose, indicating he knows he probably should have reached out right away, but was embarrassed by having to admit that he did not do it.
There is an uncomfortable pause by Jay and when Oprah in a surprised tone asks “why? He is clearly not prepared to answer “why” he didn’t reach out. That is why you see his face squint and his eyes close, indicating that he really didn’t want to answer that question. He goes ahead and answers the question in fragmented sentences which further indicates that he was unprepared with his answer.
Subsequently, Jay answered that he wanted to “ let things cool down.” He puts his hand out as he says this, which is a distancing gesture. His shoulder shrug also shows that he is uncomfortable with what he said as he immediately adds “ maybe we’ll talk.”
This was NOT the right answer to endear him to viewers. As savvy as Jay is, he clearly knew it was not the right thing to say. But he was being honest about his not wanting to directly confront a heated, emotional, and difficult situation and no doubt have his emissaries handle it on his behalf.
He then looked sheepish with his raised eyebrows and the lowered volume of his now meeker sounding voice as he continued to speak. His interjection of the phrase “you know” said twice (once at the end with head nod) indicated he wanted Oprah’s approval as he speaks . Usually when people say “ you know” they want your approval that you are with them in knowing and identifying with what they are saying.
Oprah was clearly not giving Jay any signals of approval. Instead, her questions indicated that she was probing deeper and deeper. Viewers were definitely not approving of the fact that Jay did not personally reach out to his “friend” as he did in 2004.
It was disturbing to viewers that Jay reached out when he was on the losing end of the equation back in 2004, but no longer saw the need to reach out when he was no on the winning end of the equation in 2010.
ADMITTING CONAN’S JOKE’S HURT IN A ROUNDABOUT WAY
Oprah asked Jay” Was anything Conan said about you hurtful?” He paused and looked away, trying to come up with the right answer for the audience. But his body language betrays him.
The fact that he paused for so long, indicated that of course it hurt him in terms of what Conan said about him. That pause time indicates that he is trying to come up with an answer. Then he looks up and with a flat affect tries to minimize the hurt that it obviously caused him.
He didn’t say “yes it hurt” or “no it didn’t hurt.” Instead, in a monotone expression says” they were jokes.“
Oprah, being the expert interviewer that she is probed even deeper by asking” So the jokes don’t hurt you?”
He looked up to show his clear discomfort with the probe. As he answers Oprah his eyes are closed at times and he looks away as a means of distancing himself . Instead of admitting that the jokes do indeed hurt, he depersonalizes it by taking in the third person by saying “That’s what we do.”
He then uses the analogy of being a fighter, not look in Oprah’s direction as he speaks. He said “You get punched in the head. Did it hurt? Yeah, it hurt but you’re a fighter.”
So in a roundabout way, Jay admitted that Conan’s jokes did hurt like a punch hurts a fighter. Another comedian’s verbal punches can hurt just as badly as fists.
Perhaps it was Jay’s attempt to seem like he was in control and not let anyone see his vulnerability. But showing his vulnerability would have made him sound a lot less defensive and more endearing.
JAY NEEDED TO COME ON STRONGER INSTEAD OF VICTIM LIKE IN ADMITTING IT WASNT HE WHO WAS CALLING THE SHOTS BUT THE NETWORK
When Oprah said America has taken sides “And a lot of people are not on your side. And they’re not on your side because they think that you have been selfish in this. Do you see in any way how you’ve been selfish? They think that you took the job away from Conan.”
Instead of Jay saying in a very animated and passionate vocal tone NO I AM NOT SELFISH. It was not my call. It was the network’s call and their decision to do what they did and I am just an employee, so to call me selfish and blaming Conan losing has job because of me is unfair! Just like the network did with me years ago, they did the same with Conan.! So it wasn’t me who is responsible for Conan not having a show not ME ! “ Jay was too low key and matter of fact in his delivery.
Jay also talked way too much and became way too defensive. He replied, “”It all comes down to numbers in show business. This is almost the perfect storm of bad things happening. You have two hit shows — ‘Tonight Show’ No. 1 and Conan No. 1. You move them both to another situation. And what are the odds that both would do extremely poorly? If Conan’s numbers had been a little bit higher, it wouldn’t even be an issue. But in show business, there’s always somebody waiting in the wings. Being me.”
“I never expected this to happen. People think you’re behind the scenes, pulling strings. “”There’s no strings to pull. I have a show that’s been canceled. So why would I have any power to go, ‘Oh, I want that.’”
10 THINGS JAY NEEDED TO DO AND SAY DURING THE INTERVIEW
Perhaps Oprah’s polls would have then yielded a different result if Jay:
- Had displayed more verbal and vocal passion.
- Had more direct eye contact with Oprah throughout the interview
- Was not afraid to shed a tear or a vocal crack as he did for a millisecond at the beginning of the interview
- Had called Conan or even said he had a call into Conan
- Had he shown more facial emotion to express how sad he was for Conan’s situation
- Had he spoken directly to the audience and explained how badly he felt about this whole ordeal
- Had he taken the audiences point of view and stated how he could understand how they might feel the way they do about him.
- Had he not sounded so defensive and victim-like at times during the interview.
- Had he promised that he would do his best when his new show debuts and with confidence assured people that they would have a new experience to look forward to
- Had he made the offer to have Conan on his new show and not have Oprah ask the question.
The bottom line is as Jay said at the end of the interview, he is only a highly paid employee and not an owner. Therefore, unlike Oprah who is an owner of a show, Jay had no say in the decision. He was simply offered his old job back and he took it. As an employee he knows that if his ratings fail, he is out the door. Unfortunately this message did not get a across to those who took Oprah’s post show poll because of Jay’s facial language, body language, and lack of vocal passion and animation.