After being on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" for mere seconds, Robertson family patriarch Phil, who didn't bother dressing for the occasion (camo pants and a green t-shirt), told the host of the popular late night talk show that he (Leno) was making the outdoorsman miss two days of duck season. That, of course, was "Duck Dynasty" star Phil's roundabout way of telling Leno he was honored to be invited onto NBC's "The Tonight Show."
Willie, who was dressed in redneck chic: jeans, a do-rag, and a black leather blazer, said that he was in Las Vegas for a signing (probably for their book, although he didn't clarify) when he learned they'd been invited to the talk show. He said he was having "convulsions" with excitement but by the time he called home to Louisiana to talk about it with his wife, Korie, he woke her from sleeping, making her excitement at the now hours-old news rather limited.
Leno showed the audience a picture of a small, run-down shed. Phil agreed that the tiny building had been where he had made the first duck calls that would become the foundation of Duck Commander and the eventual sporting goods empire. "From West Monroe to 'Jay Leno' -- it's a pretty good step." He laughed. "Humble beginnings, Jay."
Jay said he'd heard that Phil was quite the college football player in college and had had pro prospects. Phil admitted that it was true, that while at Louisiana Tech, he had been the first-string quarterback. His back-up had been Terry Bradshaw. He said he saw Bradshaw for the first time since 1968 when he arrived at LAX for "The Tonight Show" and Bradshaw had snuck up behind him, giving him a bear hug. When Leno asked why he'd decided to forego going into the NFL, Phil said, "He (Bradshaw) tried to get me to go on to play professional football -- with many others -- but I thought running from large violent men who are trying to stomp you in the dirt..." He paused, then added," During duck season," and threw up his hands.
The audience loved it...
At one point, Leno produced a photo of Willie and Korie and his two children, noting that they looked like models in an L. L. Bean ad. Shockingly, younger and thinner Willie Robertson had no beard. It was there where it was admitted that being clean-shaven had been their secret to getting their beautiful wives. The beards came later...
And when Leno produced actual Duck Commander duck calls, Phil put him to the test, asking him to name the duck. Completely out of his depth, Leno aimed high: "Donald," he guessed, getting an approving roar from everyone.
So what was the secret to their success? Phil admitted it had been a surprise to him, but Willie said that after traveling the country, most of the show's fans said they liked the family aspect of the show, the togetherness, how they ended the show with the family gathered in prayer at the dinner table. He then quickly added, "It's funny. And positive."
All that positivity and the goofy redneck behavior the show has become known for keeps their ratings numbers moving upwards. And they've even gotten the attention of television critics, like the New York Times' Neil Genzlinger, who called "Duck Dynasty" the "most enjoyable reality shows on television."
It was Phil and Willie Robertson's first appearance on "The Tonight Show" and they'll probably return, especially Willie, who won't pass up the publicity for his popular show and his multi-million-dollar "Duck Dynasty" empire. Phil... well, he will undoubtedly return as long as it's not duck season. Being asked once during duck season was an honor, but being asked a second time would be an imposition.
The new season of "Duck Dynasty" took Thanksgiving week off but was reruns were scheduled several times during the week, including a 13-hour marathon on Friday, Nov. 23. The Robertson clan will return on Nov. 28, airing at its regular time at 10 p.m. (EST) on AETV.
Take Home Message: You never know what opportunities might present themselves to you throughout your life, but chances are, if those opportunities are connected to something that you're passionate about, you will be successful. It is doubtful that Phil Robertson ever thought he would be a guest on "The Tonight Show" when he set out to simply make a better duck call, then later started selling them. But with time and grasping opportunities as the arose, he -- and his son, who has undoubtedly taken advantage of quite a few business opportunities -- got an invite.