A serendipitous introduction

Alabama Living Magazine

Illustration by Dennis Auth

It all began with stand-up comedy. Once, when I was in LA (that’s Los Angeles, not Lower Alabama) for a meeting, I went to my first comedy club. For whatever reason, it filled me with the urge to get up and tell jokes. So I did. I thought one time on stage would scratch my itch. Wrong. I did well enough that I decided to enter an amateur comedy contest in Birmingham – which I won. I was fully infected now and became a full-time, part-time comic. Soon, a local morning radio team who had seen me perform asked me to write a few jokes for their show. To give you an idea how long ago it was, they paid me in cassette tapes. 

I began watching Jay Leno perform his monologue on “The Tonight Show.” An idea germinated. What if I sent Leno some of my jokes and asked him to critique them? 

So I got out a legal pad and wrote a letter to Jay, one comedian to another. I enclosed about four pages of my comedic gems along with a self-addressed stamped envelope.

Two weeks later, I was working in my downtown office when my wife called. Foregoing any pleasantries, she said, “ Hey. Have you sent some kind of letter to Jay Leno?” 

My heart jumped. “Why are you asking me that?”

“Because I think I might’ve just made a fool out of myself.” 

I wisely did not respond to that statement. Instead, I asked innocently, “What could you possibly mean?” 

“Well, I just got a phone call from somebody saying they were Jay Leno. He said he wants you to sign a writing contract. It was a pretty lame impersonation, so I’m assuming it’s one of your idiot friends playing a joke on you.”

It turns out it really was Jay. He had looked over my jokes and liked the stuff I submitted! Almost immediately, I was spending my evenings culling news, writing gags, and faxing them to Mr. Leno. 

I continued performing, and word spread of my connection with the King of Late Night. Soon, others were interested in me performing for corporate gigs and writing for people who needed humor. Once Paul Finebaum (please don’t hold this against me) called and asked if I could write some material for Joe Namath ‘s roast. I got to hang out with Joe Willie!

 After Jay retired from his late-night gig, I began writing a blog with my life’s stories. This led to newspaper columns and magazine articles. 

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. My wife and a couple of friends decided to go to this little burger place that’s out in the middle of nowhere. It was so crowded that we shared a table with some very nice folks, one of whom happened to be Mark Stephenson, the creative director of Alabama Living magazine. 

We exchanged information, I e-mailed a few samples of my work, had a zoom call with the editor, and bingo! Here I am writing columns for y’all. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do writing them for you. 

It’s truly serendipity.

Joe Hobby is a standup comedian, a syndicated columnist, and a long-time writer for Jay Leno. He’s a member of Cullman Electric Cooperative and very happy now that he can use Sprout from his little place on Smith Lake.


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