Monday, April 20, 2009

Jay Leno's exit interview

Jay Leno talks to Michael Hainey of GQ about his move to 10 PM, his relationship with Dave, and how many cars he has. Highlights:

On his greatest regret, "that The Tonight Show came between us [Leno and Letterman]": "When I was given The Tonight Show, I can honestly say, I didn’t know Dave wanted it. There had been no, Hey, Dave’s looking… It wasn’t until after I got it that all of this started and I said to myself, 'Well, maybe he should have it, he’s been following,' but the network didn’t want to do it."

Answering the question, "Will you ever go back on Letterman's show?": "I wouldn’t rule it out. I was asked to go on the night Conan premieres. I would never do that."

On the format of his new show: "We need to have more comedy in the second half hour so we provide a strong lead-in to the local news. There is no NBC. It’s all affiliates."

How many cars does he have? "You sound like my wife."


  1. Anonymous said...

    First, I'd like to thank you for putting up the Late Night TV Page.

    When I was given The Tonight Show, I can honestly say, I didn’t know Dave wanted it.I remember that back then, there was speculation in the press about whether Leno or Letterman would succeed Carson, so it's hard for me to believe Leno when he says that, unless he was told he got the job quite some time before a public announcement was made.

    Here's why I remember this. One day in the spring of 1991 (IIRC the year), Leno had come to NYC for one of his standup gigs, at Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center. On the day of that show, he was a guest on the morning show of WNEW-FM and coincidentally, that day the morning show was done live from a remote location with the public invited to attend. I went.

    To pass the time while I was there, I looked through a copy of the (New York) Daily News. I noticed in the paper's TV listings that Leno was going to be a guest on Letterman's show that night.

    Leno arrived and the WNEW-FM morning guys talked to him on the air. When they were done, the hosts opened the mic to questions from the audience. Someone asked Leno a fairly uninteresting question. Leno answered it, and then the morning show hosts looked for anyone else with a question. There was no one, and I noticed that this resulted in a lull in the proceedings, possibly even dead air. I thought to myself that I'll come to their aid (honest, that's what went through my mind) and ask a question, and I thought of one right then. I raised my hand, they called on me, and I went up to the mic in the audience. My question for Jay Leno? "Could you get me in [to 30 Rock] to see Letterman tonight?" which I asked with a goofy grin on my face.

    Leno was silent and had a not-too-pleasant look on his face. Quickly, the woman who was with him (probably his personal assistant or manager or some such) perked up and said yes. (She wasn't heard on the radio because she wasn't mic'ed.) Leno followed her cue and said something along the lines of "Sure, no problem." (At some point later, the woman took my name.)

    As I returned to my seat from the mic, another member of the audience went up and said she'd rather see Leno's act that night than go to Letterman's taping and asked Leno if he had any free tickets to give her, or something like that. He responded by saying he had given away all the comp tickets he had the day before, when he visited Late Night. It was then I remembered that the copy of the Daily News I had been reading was a day old [figurative facepalm].

    Later, as Leno sat in the back of a limo on his way to wherever he was going next, he had the window rolled down and he chatted with fans. I told him, "I'm sorry, Mr. Leno, I thought you were going to be on Letterman tonight." All I remember of his reaction was, he shrugged and said something like, "Eh," but he didn't come across to me as ticked off. Afterwards, it occurred to me that the cool reception my request got from Leno must've been due to the rivalry between him and Letterman for the Tonight Show job.

    I went to 30 Rock later that day for the taping. After a little confusion (the tickets were held under Leno's name rather than mine), I joined the other people who were there to be in the audience for the taping. When I got to the studio, I saw that two seats had been set aside for me+1 (I had been unable to find anyone who could attend the taping with me on such short notice, though) with masking tape that had Leno's name written on it. I imagine Letterman was aware of where Leno's guests were sitting. I had gotten there by bicycle and I had my bike helmet with me and I decided to have it on my head when Letterman came out to warm up the audience, in the hopes that he would notice me and say something funny about my helmet. He didn't.