Comedy and Cars with Jay Leno

Neil deGrasse Tyson rubbing Jay Leno's ‘Geek Underbelly.’ Credit: Brandon Royal

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About This Episode

Nobody would deny that Jay Leno, the legendary host of The Tonight Show, is an expert about two things: comedy, and cars. In this episode of StarTalk, our host, Neil deGrasse Tyson, dives into both, with a little help from his in-studio guest, engineer Bill Nye the Science Guy, and comic co-host Matt Kirshen. First up, Jay shares one of his earliest memories rocking the house (an apartment in the Bronx) when he was just 4 or 5. Then he tells Neil a joke and explains why it works: “It’s like a verbal form of magic.” Next, you’ll hear Neil, Matt and Bill debate whether there is a formula to comedy, and why some jokes are still funny no matter how often you hear them. Explore the impact of political correctness and the increasing level of social sensitivity on the business of comedy. Then the conversation turns to whether millennials are smarter than either older or younger demographic cohorts, and Mona Chalabi stops by to add some hard data to the discussion. Turning to cars, you’ll find out what it was like when Neil took a 165 mph joyride in Jay Leno’s 245mph “Ecojet” super car that runs on alternative fuel. Review the history of the automobile, including why electric cars didn’t catch on even though NYC had charging stations every 10 blocks in 1908, and find out why cars, which are responsible for so much pollution today, were once the solution to “horse pollution.” You’ll also hear about the time Neil and Bill took a selfie with former President Barack Obama at the White House, and how Neil almost blew the moment. Plus, in a StarTalk first, gear head Bill introduces his own “Nye in the City” segment, where he gets under an exotic car to “turn some wrenches” and talk about the future of cars and why bow ties are safer than neck ties when working around rotating machinery.

NOTE: All-Access subscribers can listen to this entire episode commercial-free here: Comedy and Cars with Jay Leno, as well as Neil’s extended interview with Jay here.

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  • Alex Marianyi

    I’ve been a huge fan of this show for years, but the middle section that was essentially calling Millennials stupid was pretty disappointing.

    Did anyone think that maybe Millennials have less “general knowledge” because they’re younger and therefore have had less time to learn “general knowledge” than previous generations? Why not talk about a study in which different generations answer the same questions at the same age? I know it’s likely that someone is going to jump in here about how Millennials are whiny, but really, I’m just concerned about the accuracy of stating Millennials have less general knowledge.

    It would seem to me that, if your goal is to encourage the next generation of scientists, telling them that they’re dumb isn’t a great way of doing that.

    • Great point, Alex. Mona Chalabi brought that up in the show, that if Millennials wrote a “general knowledge” test, older folks would likely do just as poorly.

      • Miles Herrbach

        Gotta love Mona!

  • Miles Herrbach

    Is Nat Geo going to make season 4?

  • Iman Niqui

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