I've got to put a few things aside to analyze her comedy:
1. My political opinion of her
2. My comedy opinion of Jay Leno
3. The fact that her first time performing... was on The (expletive deleted) Tonight Show. I'm a stand-up comic. I wouldn't say I'm "bitter" or "jealous." More like, "re-evaluating" and "crying."
That done (be brave, Kreisler), strictly from a comedy perspective, I gotta admit, she did pretty well. She's definitely comfortable in front of an audience, being the center of attention, and handling pressure. Those are characteristics of a comedian (and politician) that are difficult to teach. She's a natural.
Constructive criticism time!
On the material:
- I think the material fit her very well. It was safe, simple, and straightforward. It wasn't edgy or super original or unexpected... but that's why it worked for her. The material sounded like her. It was in harmony with her voice, her opinion, her character... her (shudder) brand. That's what you need to do when you write for someone else — make it sound like the person.
- Personally, I wasn't in love with the jokes — the only one with any spark was the Tina Fey line — but I'm not being asked to perform 'em or pay to see 'em.
On her performance:
- There were three joke topics: Alaska, politics, and Sarah Palin, superstar. I would've lumped the jokes about each topic together, rather than spreading them out haphazardly. There didn't seem to be any real arch or reasoned order to the bits.
- Biggest criticism: Wait for the laughs to start fading. She began each new joke as the reaction was reaching its peak, raising her voice to speak over the noise, rather than letting the laughter and applause at least begin to fade before moving on. She cut off her own energy, instead of letting the momentum build.
- She swallowed some punchlines. Could've emphasized the endings of jokes more.
- While in general her presence was good, and she certainly wasn't monotone, her physicality on the one NRA joke was off. The key part of that bit was her six-shooting "or else" moment, and she didn't deliver, it just got lost in the general adulation from the crowd.
- Again, she clearly likes talking in front of people, and she's good at it.