SCHENECTADY Jay Leno and Janice Thompson are both in the entertainment business
Leno, host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” shared his national audience this week with Thompson, whose “Janice Thompson Show” is a staple of Schenectady Access Cable Council programming.
It was a gag. During Leno’s Monday night monologue, he asked his viewers to play “Spot the Cable Christmas Special.” Separate clips of Mariah Carey and Jewel followed, both singing lavishly produced numbers. The third clip featured Thompson, dressed in a black dress with a red bow in her hair, singing “Jingle Bells” as she shook a tiny bell. A somber John Slovacek, wearing a red Santa cap, played the piano.
The studio audience got the joke. So did Thompson and others involved in the cable production.
Thompson, who lives in Schenectady’s Stockade section, said the eight-second clip was taken from her 15th annual Christmas show, which can be seen on SACC Channel 16 and the SACC website. She said she was still up when she received a telephone call around midnight Monday from Jim Lewis, who used to direct her show and had just seen the monologue.
“I don’t watch Jay Leno so I wouldn’t have seen it,” she said. “I laughed. I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’ ”
Even though Leno and NBC were poking a little fun — comparing big-budget specials to more cost-conscious cable productions — Thompson was glad for the exposure.
“There’s only one Schenectady,” she said. “We want to keep it on the map. I’ve lived here all my life. I’m vested in the community.”
Randall Hogue Sr., president of SACC, said his group recently received a telephone call from a California agency representing “The Tonight Show.” Agency staffers asked some questions about SACC and the Thompson show, but did not disclose their plans.
“We gave them the basic information,” Hogue said. “Quite honestly, when we put it on SACC-TV, we’re putting it in the public domain, so we don’t expect people to ask for permission, as long as they don’t take it out of context and cause a problem.”
Hogue thought the bit, which was not credited as a Schenectady production during the segment, was funny.
“I also thought Jay Leno is watching SACC-TV or his people are,” Hogue said. “I also thought if there’s a point to comparing a $50 million extravaganza with Mariah Carey to what we’ve done locally at SACC-TV, that’s not a bad thing.”
Pianist Slovacek, who lives in Scotia, is part of the clip’s appeal: He accompanies Thompson with a serious expression on his face.
“I think I was a little bit nervous,” said Slovacek, who said the performance was his first on Thompson’s program. He also didn’t mind being part of a Leno punch line.
“They did kind of poke fun, but it was all in fun,” he said.
Thompson’s hourlong special, which includes several guests and songs, can be seen at various times Thursdays through Sundays throughout the month on SACC Channel 16 or anytime on the SACC website, http://sacc.tv.