Comparing his hospital stay to Marlon Brando's experience in The Godfather and joking about having to take an ambulance to a hospital that's in walking distance from his office, Jay Leno was back in top Tonight Show form Monday after calling in sick for the first time in his 17-year run as host.
"You know, I had this 103 degree fever," the 58-year-old comedian said in his opening monologue about showing up sick for work on Thursday. "I come in, in my Model T—it was freezing that morning and I didn't have a jacket on. I was freezing and I got chills and here at NBC we have an ODN—overly dramatic nurse. She came in...'Oh you have 103, oh, you have to go to the hospital right now! We have to call an ambulance!'
"I go, the hospital's right there," he said, gesturing toward the door of the Burbank soundstage.
"What happened was—and I think this was a mistake—I ate a raw pig a friend brought back from Mexico. It was delicious," Leno said, taking a swipe at the swine flu epidemic in Mexico City.
Leno canceled Thursday's Tonight Show taping after deciding at around 12:30 p.m. that he should take the minutes-long trek to Providence St. Joseph Medical Center.
"And I realized I've got a really bad HMO," he continued. "Like, for X-rays they had to take me over to Burbank Airport and put me through the baggage...Have you ever slept in a hospital?...I was there for 24 hours. I had a horrible dream that I couldn't breathe. I felt like I was suffocating...
"Then I woke up and realized Conan was holding a pillow over my face."
Apparently fearing that someone might put a dent in its future 10 p.m. plans, NBC also put an armed guard outside Leno's door.
"So now I'm like in The Godfather, at the end of the hall, a guy like this," he said, pretending he was holding a gun. "It's so stupid."
"But anyway, we're back and we're not gonna be canceling any more shows or appearances," Leno concluded. "I want to thank everybody for being so kind. And we're still going to Wilmington, Ohio, to do our free show."
Leno will be going to Wilmington to perform two stand-up concerts as part of his Comedy Stimulus tour, which touched down a few weeks ago in the Detroit area. About 4,000 tickets have been handed out so far for next month's gigs, which are being sponsored by Pepsi and are intended as a fun, free outing for those going through financial hard times.