The One Time Jay Leno Did A Show In The Dark

If the pandemic wasn't enough, California faced another bout of rolling blackouts in 2020 (via NPR). Following prolonged heatwaves that hit the state last August, electricity suppliers reintroduced planned power outages to reduce stress from the grid. Thankfully, it didn't last as long as the post-millennium blackout that stretched from early 2000 to the spring of 2001 (via Market Watch).

For those not young enough to remember, the 2000-2001 rolling blackout was a result a number of different problems exacerbated a flawed deregulation scheme (via PBS), drought, issues with transmission lines, and energy costs (via National Geographic). Even now, California still has the second highest total energy demand in North America, according to Nat Geo, and as a result the state imports more electricity than any other in the country.

Obviously, anytime there's a blackout it effects millions of people in California who have to deal with no lights, air conditioning, and energy for other necessities. But when it comes to Hollywood, one talk show host decided to press on despite the lack of electricity.

Jay Leno decided to film an episode with limited studio lighting in solidarity with the California blackouts

In a lost 2001 episode of "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," which was filmed at NBC Studios in Burbank (via Los Angeles Times), the New York comedian decided to film the show with no studio lights. This wasn't actually a result of the blackout itself; rather, Leno wanted to show solidarity with the crisis by hosting a June 21 show in a set only lit by candles scattered around the studio, with handheld flashlights given to the audience (via TIME).

During the taping, Jay was also joined by three nocturnal animals during a segment, including a bush baby and barn owl (via Alarmy). It's probably not a surprise that this wasn't the only time that Leno spoke about the blackout, as a dozen of his monologues were related to the crisis. As UPI noted, the late night show had at least one joke about the power outages for weeks.

"God, this power crisis in California is still going on," Leno joked at the time. "Who would have thought the 21st century would be the dark ages? ... In fact, the only working lights we have now are from the Mir space thing burning up." This was in relation to another disaster at the time, when the abandoned Mir space station started to deorbit (via NASA).