Ken Tucker
November 10, 2009 AT 12:50 PM EST

Well, not quite. George Lopez made his talk-show-host debut on Lopez Tonight with a bright, loud party that was neither revolutionary in format nor a laugh-a-minute, but it had a lot of energy and established a good mood.

Ellen DeGeneres showed up early on, wearing pyjamas and a sleeping cap. The joke was that she was trying to sleep somewhere nearby and Lopez’s tumultuous band and audience were keeping her awake.

Then she welcomed Lopez to the talk-show fold, said, “Everybody needs to be represented on television,” and had jello shots served to some folks near the stage. Well, Lopez did yell at the top of the show, “The revolution starts right now!,” didn’t he? Who knew it would come complete with jello shots?

Lopez, looking sharp, like the long-lost Latino Rat Pack member in a tight black suit, seemed perfectly at ease shouting his jokes over the frequent cheers of an audience who rarely sat down during the hour. His opening monologue was a combination of crowd-flattery (“This is what America looks like!”) and the kind of jokes you probably wouldn’t hear from, say, Conan O’Brien: “50 Cent has a fragrance called ‘Power’– it smells like illegitimate children and gun-powder.”

Lopez Tonight wasn’t necessarily funnier than the other talk show that debuted in the past week — The Wanda Sykes Show — but it had a more polished surface, and two things in common with Sykes. Lopez and his Latino heritage play as important a part in his humor as being black does for Sykes, and both have announced their intentions to bust open the white-boys club of late-night.

The opening-night guests here included Kobe Bryant, Carlos Santana, and Eva Longoria Parker. Guess which guest was invited to wriggle around on a stripper-pole? (Not that this was sexist or anything — Lopez himself took a turn on the pole.)

While some of Lopez’s jokes seemed pretty random (“Even Glenn Beck is black in bed”), he maintained an air of controlled celebration that was fun. As an interviewer, Lopez lobs the softballs that are standard for most of the white men (to Bryant: “Do you know how beloved you are?”), but he already has a disarming, relaxed air that puts him ahead of, say, Jimmy Fallon’s jittery opening night.

Lopez Tonight, which will air Monday through Thursdays on TBS, will take a while, as all talk shows must, to reveal its true quality. But for once I don’t have to write that it will take the Lopez show a while to find its groove. With its heavy use of good music from his house band, that’s one thing Lopez has already accomplished.

Did you watch? Did you find Lopez Tonight amusing?

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