"You got to go places where normal TV shows would not go," Jay Leno advises Dennis Rodman on MTV's newest talk show, as if Rodman needed prompting. "Everybody expects you to be with people that are wild and crazy. But if you go with, like, the straightest people in the world, see, that would be interesting. To see them react to you and you react to them."
Rodman takes that formula and runs with it on "The Rodman World Tour," a weekly barnstorming 30-minute circus that debuted Sunday night. Two straight men in an upcoming show are Leno and comedian Jon Lovitz, whom Rodman continues to call "Levitz" when he isn't mistaking him for the lead actor in a "tremendous movie" called "Jumanji."
("Yeesss," an exasperated Lovitz sneers. "I was the rhinoceros.")
The idea is for Rodman's van to roll into town and have the host hang out with a couple celebrities, the main purpose being to see how often Rodman can make them squirm. So Rodman engages Lovitz in a trash-talking tennis session and rides Harleys with Leno to a pizza restaurant, where Rodman interrogates Leno about his sexual fantasies.
Leno, ever the good sport, shifts nervously in his seat but plays along, allowing that his fantasy evening would not be "your traditional night. . . . Um, I like interesting things." When Rodman presses further, describing a rather adventurous scenario and asking Leno if he'd be interested, Leno looks into the camera and deadpans, hilariously, "Yeah, but what's in it for me?"
The "World Tour" works as entertainment because Rodman takes neither himself nor his guests very seriously and because he is given a longer leash, so to speak, than conventional talk show hosts. In an "exit interview" that ends the show, Leno is asked how he felt about the topics he and Rodman addressed over dinner.
"Fine," Leno replies. "I mean, that's the kind of show it is. There are restrictions he doesn't have." Pause. Grin. "Like common sense."