TODAY | September 15, 2009
>> thank you very much.
>>> jay leno kicked off in primetime last night here on nbc , and as promised, jay had the audience laughing as he poked fun at current events. but the moment that's getting the most attention this morning was one that brought no laughter at all, just silence. here's nbc 's lee cowan.
>> your host, jay leno !
>> reporter: after three months of buildup, the stage was jay leno 's again.
>> this is not another annoying promo. this is the actual show.
>> reporter: he said he wanted his primetime experiment to be topical, and it was.
>> it's been a busy week for president obama. i understand he's having kanye west and taylor swift to the white house for a root beer summit.
>> reporter: he didn't waste any time getting to the pop culture headline of the day, kanye west 's outburst at the " video music awards ."
>> taylor, i'm really happy for you. i'm going to let you finish. but beyonce had one of the best videos of all time.
>> reporter: after that outburst, kanye 's scheduled appearance on leno's show made opening night even more timely.
>> it was rude, very, you know. i would like to apologize to her in person.
>> reporter: while the apology wasn't necessarily a surprise, jay leno 's next question about kanye 's recently deceased mother was.
>> let me ask you something. i was fortunate enough to meet your mom and talk with your mom a number of years ago. what do you think she would have said about this?
>> reporter: the studio fell silent.
>> that was priceless stuff. that was the kind of hugh grant moment that we'll remember for a long time.
>> reporter: especially for the live studio audience.
>> it was very awkward. but i thought that jay asked a fantastic question.
>> reporter: up until that moment, jay's new show had spent the hour poking fun at itself.
>> i mean, is your staff aware that i have not been on television for 11 years?
>> reporter: first guest, jerry seinfeld , hinted jay could have done better on the celebrity front. and then there was oprah, sort of.
>> i'm on that new jay leno show.
>> what time is that on?
>> reporter: in the end, it wasn't a new jay, it was just the jay most remember.
>> and while we're off the government started this program to give people money for their old cars, i made $5 billion.
>> reporter: beyond laughter, it was the silence from his opening night that his fans might remember most. for "today," lee cowan, nbc news, los angeles .
>> wow. jay made us laugh as well as cry. i mean, really, that's pretty intense moment for kanye west , don't you think?
>> no question. and great timing to have someone like that on your first show. so well done on all fronts.
>> that's right.
>> and i guess you have to compliment kanye for keeping the appointment. he could have easily said no, i'm not going to be there tonight.