Katie Couric: Paul Drinkwater
Liane Bonin
May 13, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Stupid sweeps trick: Couric and Leno trade spaces

Do not adjust your television sets: Jay Leno really WAS cohosting the ”Today” show Monday morning, and that was, indeed, Katie Couric giggling through the ”Tonight Show” monologue later in the evening. As May sweeps stunts go, the NBC host swap provided a roller-coaster ride’s worth of highs (Jay’s Mini Cooper spin) and lows (Katie, never borrow monologue material from your 7-year-old). Here’s our minute-by-minute take on pair’s performances:

7 a.m. Jay Leno, looking bleary-eyed and slightly panicked, reveals he’ll be interviewing both Secretary of State Colin Powell and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani later in the show.

7:06 a.m. When newscaster Ann Curry makes a cheesy joke about whales, Leno sneers that ”the comedy could use a little work.” Yes, and Mr. Grumpy needs to switch to decaf.

7:11 a.m. After revealing he’s been up all night, Leno insists on calling Colin Powell ”Skip” before grilling him on suicide bombings in the Middle East. It is immensely reassuring to learn that Colin Powell is a very, very patient man.

7:36 a.m. Proving this show isn’t big enough for two punchline slingers, weatherman Al Roker, while working the Rockefeller Center crowd, growls, ”You’d laugh at one of Jay’s jokes!”

7:47 a.m. Rudy Giuliani elevates the proceedings with a heartfelt discussion about quotations that have inspired him throughout his career. For Leno, this is inexplicably a good segue into asking if he’s picking out doilies for his upcoming wedding. Luckily, Rudy Giuliani is also a very, very patient man.

8:08 a.m. Lauer looks quietly aghast as his new cohost spreads out on the sofa like a sweaty linebacker with a pulled groin muscle. We have finally discovered the true, concealing purpose of the ”Tonight Show” desk.

8:40 a.m. Trying to push Roker completely over the edge, Leno convinces the weatherman to strap into the passenger seat of a Mini Cooper. After the new kid burns rubber around Rockefeller Center for several minutes, Roker admits he’s lost 10 pounds…”in the front seat.”

9:29 a.m. When asked what Couric will be doing on the ”Tonight Show,” Leno mumbles something incoherent about ”Girls Gone Wild,” a buttock lift, and a tummy tuck.

9:51 a.m. During the food segment, Leno hogs a plate of veal Milanese, gnawing away with his mouth open while Curry and Lauer drool empty-handed on the sidelines.

9:55 a.m. When asked what his advice for Couric is, Leno shoots a haunted look at the camera and warns, ”Be afraid. Be very afraid!”

11:34 p.m. Taking the stage in a slinky black dress, Couric kicks off the show on a sophisticated note…

11:36 p.m. …and promptly obliterates all vestiges of decorum by asking a bevy of shirtless Chippendale’s dancers to do a little ”pec dance.” Amazingly, Couric makes humiliating grown men look sorta cute.

11:37 p.m. A colon exam joke is promptly followed by a breast implant joke. Even Couric can’t make this seem cute.

11:39 p.m. A tepid joke about Lauer looking like a Chia pet sends bandleader Kevin Eubanks into uncontrollable spasms of laughter, which sends Couric into her own giggle fit, stalling the whole show.

11:42 p.m. Just when the monologue is picking up, Couric pulls out some moldy jokes her elementary school-age children told her to test our gag reflexes. ”What did the snail say when it go on top of the turtle? Wheee!” she giggles.

11:45 p.m. Dr. Phil bounds onto the stage to teach Couric about the fine art of self-promotion. She wins the admiration of the audience by smiling graciously and not beating the good doctor to death with a shovel.

11:59 p.m. Couric’s first guest, ”Austin Powers” star Mike Myers, greets his host by bending her over the desk and humping her leg. We can assume this probably doesn’t happen to Leno very often, unless you count the occasional visits from zoo animals and Courtney Love.

12:11 a.m. Engaging in an acting exercise, Myers and Couric face each other chanting, ”I’m a kitten, you’re a kitten…” over and over again. This could be construed as disturbingly erotic or just plain freaky.

12:20 a.m. Couric introduces gleefully vicious ”American Idol” judge Simon Cowell, who melts into Couric’s arms and begins purring like an overfed tabby. We have seen the true power of cute, and we are totally impressed.

12:23 a.m. In a mock ”American Idol” send-up, Couric plops a brown wig on her head to play Paula Abdul, which she nails right down to the baseless praise and that prissy palms-only hand clap.

12:33 a.m. During his performance, musical guest Robbie Williams rubs up against Couric like an oversexed mink. Given the amount of full body contact she’s had during the show, it seems like the biggest potential drawback to a nighttime gig might be accidental pregnancy or an astronomical drycleaning bill.

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