PRO TIP: Head to the 2:50 mark for the booth-stuffing, which sounds pretty gross when you put it that way. Sorry. If you want to know why the booth is there in the first place, head to the 2:00 mark. Or watch the whole thing; just don't say I never tried to limit the amount of "The Tonight Show" you had to watch.
I missed this when it happened on Thursday, in part because I was grabbing a bite to eat and a cold drink after putting a bow on my contributions to a fun, friendly, four-plus-hour BDL Draft Night Chat, and also because I never, ever, ever, ever watch "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," because it's basically always the worst. (Except when Louis C.K. is on, but even then, the Internet tells me to watch it the next day, so I'm usually all set.)
Luckily (?), video archives of "The Tonight Show" exist, enabling me to watch roughly eight minutes of Jay Leno prop comedy about "new summer products" so you don't have to. After a bit promoting a "Jersey Shore" tanning booth (nailed it), the segment was punctuated by a spoof infomercial selling Shaquille O'Neal's hip-hop oeuvre, trumpeted by an announcer as just the thing to clear out unwanted guests still lingering long after a summer cookout or pool party.
(If we are ranking the jokes in this series of jokes, this was the best joke. Yep. All of the other jokes — including the beer bottle opener that is Gary Busey's face, the "garbage-kini" for environmentally conscious ladies, the timely Arnold Schwarzenegger-themed "Kiss the Cook" apron and the even-timelier Dominique Strauss-Kahn-referencing hotel-maid sexual-assault-self-defense belt [I swear, I am not lying about this] — tied for last place.)
And then, Shaquille O'Neal emerged from the back, very angry about his hip-hop oeuvre being insulted, and shoved Jay Leno into the "Jersey Shore" tanning booth, which means he should have come out during the commercial break as some amalgam of Jay Leno and Snooki, which is one of the scarier things that could exist. Hearty laffs were had.
As stand-up comedian (and Dwyane Wade's sidekick in those Nike commercials) Kevin Hart noted later in the episode, now that Shaq is officially retired, "he has nothing to do with his time," and given his long-since-established love of the limelight, we could see a lot more of this sort of thing in the future. This could become problematic, especially if he does things like walk back out, as he did when Hart mentioned him, and just kind of sit there without really adding anything.
Even though he's one of the most gregarious and charismatic basketball players of the modern era, Shaq isn't really, strictly speaking, hilarious. In the context of locker rooms and the world of sports, he is funnier than most of his peers. Once he exits that context, though, he is just a guy who thinks he is funnier than he is. (You guys remember Bill Simmons' "athlete funny" thing, right?)
If we start seeing him more frequently in situations like this, going past the initial round of applause and easy laugh of manhandling a smaller person, we'll start realizing that more and more. That's probably not great for Shaq's post-retirement branding; it's also not great for those of us who would rather remember the in-context laughs. A little bit of Retired Shaq is likely to go quite a long way.
Unless, of course, every one of his walk-ons ends with him stuffing Jay Leno into a tanning booth. Then he'd actually become the superhero he's always claimed to be.
Hat-tip to Vulture.