I was going to title this “Another reason America doesn’t need Jay Leno to stick around any longer,” or simply “Jay Leno is an idiot,” but I thought I’d try to be more charitable. We don’t usually cover much having to do with digital photobooths on the site, but this was too much to pass up. Jamie Lee Curtis was a guest on the Tonight Show last Friday night (starts at about 25:30), and ostensibly brought a photobooth with her to document the event. She asked Jay if they could take some photos together, and the booth, a digital machine labeled “Photo ID New Generation,” was wheeled out.
The first thing Leno says is “Oh, this is a real old-time one, isn’t it?” No Jay, it’s actually the exact opposite of a real old-time photobooth. Nevermind, though; he’s just using that line to set up the “joke” he’s about to unleash next: “You know how I can tell the old-time ones?” And then, pointing to the sample photos on the outside of the booth, he says, “They’re all white kids.” After he’s done laughing at his own joke, everyone’s favorite Jay Leno tick, he follows it with “See apparently, Hispanic and Black people didn’t have photographs back then.”
It’s hard to know where to begin with this. First, hopefully Leno realizes he’s actually making the joke at the expense of the manufacturer of the modern-day booth, who doesn’t have the excuse that a manufacturer in the 1950s might have had to keep all of the people in the sample photos white. Secondly, it’s clear that “old-time” photobooths, in their heyday, provided a valuable opportunity for people of all races and socio-economic backgrounds to have a photo of themselves and their loved ones, without the expense of a camera or studio portrait. I realize no one is looking to Leno for historical accuracy or insightful observations about photography and society, but it needed pointing out. After the commercial, Curtis mentions that she’ll keep the photostrip as a “keepsake, forever and ever.” Too bad the digital print, which doesn’t look too good to begin with, will be faded by then. Maybe she should have brought in a real photoboooth.