By far the most buzz about the new TV season is NBC’s moving Jay Leno to an hour each weeknight at 10 pm in place of scripted programming. On Wednesday afternoon, Leno himself sat before the nation’s TV critics at the summer press tour in Pasadena, Calif. to answer any questions they could come up with about his new show.
Here’s Jay, unedited:
RICK LUDWIN [Executive vice president,
late night and primetime series, NBC Entertainment]:
You’re going to hear about Jay’s comedy
plans…in just a minute, but
we’re certainly hopeful that you’ll see some stand-up
(Jay Leno sneaks up behind Rick Ludwin and scares him.)
(Startled reaction from Rick Ludwin.)
RICK LUDWIN: Mr. Leno. This is the man that the
Harris Poll —
JAY LENO: "Research shows…." That’s the most
RICK LUDWIN: — favorite television personality. Jay
JAY LENO: Research shows people are against
pornography. That’s why it’s a $60 billion business.
Should I sit here? All right. Hi, everybody. How
you doing? Good to see everybody.
Hello. How are you? Nice to see you. Who’s got a
QUESTION: I have a question down in the front on your
JAY LENO: Yes.
QUESTION: Can you see me waving? Just a little bit
more to your left.
JAY LENO: Oh, there you go. Sure.
QUESTION: Since we haven’t seen you in a few months
over the summer, I wanted to get your thoughts on some
major summer news, like the passing of Michael Jackson
and the resignation of Sarah Palin.
JAY LENO: Well, and those two go hand-in-hand,
really, don’t they?
Well, I mean, obviously, we’ve done our share of Michael
Jackson jokes on the show. I mean, of course, that’s a
terrible, terrible tragedy that nobody ever saw coming.
I mean, I felt bad, like everybody else, obviously. But
then again, the Palin thing cheered me up, so —
QUESTION: Jay —
JAY LENO: Yes.
QUESTION: — can you talk about the end the show and
how you’re going to lead into the local affiliates?
JAY LENO: How I will lead into the local affiliates
is the fact that the signature pieces that people like
on "The Tonight Show" — "Headlines," "Jaywalking,"
"99-cent store" — stuff that has always done really
well, those will be the pieces that will bring us into
the 11 o’clock news. I’ve been doing this long enough
to realize there is no NBC. NBC is a bunch of
trailers over in Burbank. The real NBC is the
affiliates and the people who kind of back the show
and get behind the show. And we want to provide a
strong lead-in for the 11 o’clock news. That will be
QUESTION: Is that the strongest challenge you’re
facing, you think, with the setup of this program,
that last 15 minutes or 10 minutes?
JAY LENO: No, that’s not — the first 45 is going to
be interesting too.
I mean, the idea is — you know, when I was doing "The
Tonight Show," you sort of front-loaded the show. You’d
have all your comedy from 11:35 to 12:00. Then you had
that big six-minute commercial break. And that’s where
you lost them. You lost them to sleep, they have to get
up early to go to work, whatever it might be. So then
you’d come back, you’d have a comic or an actress from a
second-string series, and then the music (snoring), "Good
night." Now, you’ve just got to keep it going. It’s
been ratcheted up a bit. The intensity will be — it
will be a little bit more intense. There will be a lot
more comedy in the show.
QUESTION: Jay, Jeanne Wolf from Parade.
JAY LENO: Hi, Jeanne, how are you?
QUESTION: O.K. So you have had tiny openings
backstage at crummy clubs, huge openings all over the
country, all over the world.
JAY LENO: All right.
QUESTION: All right.
How does this compare in terms of ratcheting up — well,
I’ve never seen you with butterflies, but ratcheting up
anticipation, and is some of that very welcome?
JAY LENO: Yeah, I think it’s interesting. Doing "The
Tonight Show," I got in a bit of a rut. This new show
is going to be — look, I’ve been running four miles
every day. Look (opens coat to reveal newly svelte
figure). Lost 12 pounds. Thank you very much.
Just trying to get in shape. And it’s an interesting
challenge. When I started "The Tonight Show," it was
an interesting challenge. It was "You stink. You
suck. We hate you." And then you just — you work,
and you put your nose to the grindstone. And you
apply yourself, and you try to turn it around. And
that’s what we’ll do here. We’ll go into that with
that same technique. So much of comedy now is
specific. People like this type of comedy because it
plays to a young college crowd, this type only — they
work blue, they work — I grew up in the era of Johnny
Carson and Jack Benny, Bill Cosby, all these kind of
comedians that just tried to play to all of America.
And that’s what this show, I hope, will do. I think
there will be something there for everyone. We’ll
have politics. And we can get a little edgy at times
and such. But it will be something, I think, that
hopefully will play across the board.
QUESTION: Jay, do have first-show guests booked yet?
JAY LENO: No. We have offers out to a couple people.
But if I say something and then that other person
isn’t on, "Ah-ha! I was not the first choice." So I
have to be —
QUESTION: So you don’t want to tell?
JAY LENO: No.
QUESTION: What is the set going to look like? Do you
have any —
JAY LENO: The set is interesting. It’s a lot bigger
than our old set. There’s no desk. We might use a
desk in the last 15 minutes because I’m trying to
think of some better way to do headlines. But it
won’t be a talk show, and it won’t be a variety show
with wigs and hats on and things of that nature. We
have a number of correspondents. And we have some
featured people. I was thrilled. I spoke to Brian
Williams from "The Nightly News" and said — who has a
wonderful sense of humor, if you saw him host
"Saturday Night Live." And I said, "Would you be
willing to do something on a regular basis,
contributing perhaps things like stories that weren’t
good enough for ‘The Nightly News,’ this type of
stuff?" And he said yes, he would love to do it. So
he is going to, hopefully, hone his comedy chops on
our show. He’ll be a featured guest. Then we’re
going to introduce a lot of new correspondents. The
idea of having comedians coming on, doing their little
five-minute stand-up, and sitting down, there’s
nothing wrong with that. But to give it a bit more
punch, I’m hoping we can make some stars here. We’ve
found a number of people. D.L. Hughley will report on
politics in Washington. D.L. in D.C., more or less.
(Noise off to side of stage.)
I’ll be right there, honey.
This kid named Mikey Day, very funny comedian. Rachael
Harris. You might have seen her from "The Hangover."
We’ve got a lot of these people to go out and shoot
pieces for us, bring them to the studio, and we’ll show
them. And I think it will be — I think it will be a lot
QUESTION: Jay on the left.
JAY LENO: Yes.
QUESTION: Back here.
JAY LENO: Yeah.
QUESTION: I really want to express my disappointment
that you did not ride in on your motorcycle this time.
JAY LENO: Well, I did that last time. That was
first time I got fired from NBC, remember? Yeah.
QUESTION: Yeah. I was there then, and I’m here now.
JAY LENO: Remember NBC? Never Believe your Contract?
Remember that joke? Yeah.
QUESTION: Oh, yeah. And I wanted to find out your
opinion being reflective of Jay then and Jay now. Do you
believe you’ve changed? What — on a personal level, we
see how your comedy has changed over the years. How have
JAY LENO: "Ohm." How have I changed? I don’t really
think I’ve changed a whole lot. I have no idea. Not
only am I still married to the same woman, I’m still
driving the same car. So not a whole lot has changed.
I’m still living in the same house. No. I don’t think
I’m a whole lot different than I was back then,
QUESTION: Jay, here in the center.
JAY LENO: Yes.
QUESTION: Can you talk about the bigger set that you
have. Are there opportunities for things that you
couldn’t do before that you can do now?
JAY LENO: Yes. Something we have — we have something.
One of my favorite shows, English shows, "Top Gear," and
there’s an homage to that show. We built a racetrack
right next to the studio. We’re going to do something
called "the green car challenge." You know, all
celebrities talk about being green. We want to see who
is green and fast. And we are working with a major
manufacturer now. They are building us some really,
really high-powered electric cars. They are as fast as
any race cars. And we will take the celebrity, put them
in the car, have them do a lap on the track and see who
is the fastest. They will have in-car cameras in there.
They can plow into a light post. They could roll the
thing. But I’ve told it to a number of stars, and in
fact, even Tom Cruise called and said, "Can I get in
there early and practice?" I said, "No, nobody gets to
practice. We put you in the car, and you try it out." I
mean, the fun thing about it, there are a lot of people
who — people want to see, maybe perhaps athletes and
people like this that are not necessarily good talkers
but would be fun in this sort of environment to see if
Shaquille O’Neil is faster than Cameron Diaz.
QUESTION: And coming on earlier, are there things you
can’t do now that you could in late night,
just (inaudible) —
JAY LENO: No, I don’t think so. I don’t think so.
That’s not a problem. You know, to me, 10 o’clock is
kind of the new 11:30. When I was a kid, everybody
stayed up until 1 o’clock in the morning. I see people
now in their 20s and 30s. They just don’t stay up late
anymore. They have kids. They carpool. They have to
get up early. So, no, I don’t think so. I think the
real key to this show is the immediacy of it. You know,
television ratings are down across the boards everywhere,
but the one place television does well is immediacy. I
mean, a classic example of this, I think, would be
Captain Sully with that landing of the plane in the
Hudson River. The "Today" show got it as it was landing
and got the story live. The "Dateline" people did a
story on the human-interest part of it, and we in late
night, me, Conan and the rest, we did jokes about it
because nobody was injured. And the ratings that night
were huge all the way through because here’s an event
that was happening that day. We commented on it that
day, and it went through the whole night. I think the
real key to this show is if something happens, if the
President does something, we can comment can on it and
joke about it and get it on the air first at 10 o’clock.
Is this a show, the one I expect it to beat "CSI:
Miami"? No. That the most popular show on the world.
Do I expect to catch them in the reruns and stuff? Yeah.
You know, we might not catch them on the straights, but
hopefully, we can catch them in the corners. And this is
46 weeks a year. While everybody else is in reruns, we
will be doing fresh shows every single night.
QUESTION: Jay, over on your left.
JAY LENO: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Right here. So you left with your legacy, all
of the children on "The Tonight Show."
JAY LENO: Yeah.
QUESTION: You are working — how — what’s your comeback
going to be? Have you thought about how to match that?
JAY LENO: I’m going to be conceiving children on the
What are we going to come back — what was the question?
QUESTION: Just, you know, have you thought about what
kind of, like — are you going to have a momentous
opening or something? Because, you know —
JAY LENO: Obviously, Kevin Eubanks, our band leader, has
written a terrific theme song. Kevin worked very hard.
I think he’s got a great — he played it for me
yesterday. I was thrilled to hear it. That’s really
good. And we’ll start — the show will open, obviously,
with a monologue. The show will start (snaps fingers)
right now. It isn’t one of these long things where we
show the hills of L.A. and then palm tree and then the
Hollywood sign and then here. The show will start within
9 to 12 seconds, "The Jay Leno Show," boom, come out,
start with the jokes, get the show moving. We want to
keep it fast-paced. I think that’s the real key. You
don’t want to waste anybody’s time, you know. This is —
this is good food at sensible prices. Here’s a bunch of
jokes, a lot of jokes.
QUESTION: Jay, right here in the center.
JAY LENO: Yeah. Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you think there’s going to be opportunities
to change the format from, like, day-to-day,
week-to-week, depending on the guests you get?
JAY LENO: Yeah. Duh. If it works, no. If it doesn’t,
QUESTION: But you know what I mean? Like, George Lopez
earlier this week mentioned that, "Well, look, if we’ve
got a good band on — you know, if we get U2, why not put
U2 first?" You know, that kind of thing. "If we get" —
JAY LENO: Well, I’ll tell you a little secret to doing
television. What music gets you is a great studio
audience. Music doesn’t necessarily get you a great
television audience because, if you want to see U2, I can
go to VH1, I can go to the Internet, press YouTube, and
see — and see any U2 concert at any time that I want to
see. If I announce that I had U2 on my show, I would
have a great studio audience. I wouldn’t necessarily
have a very — and that’s nothing against U2. It’s just
that fact that, when I was a kid, the only place you saw
the Beatles was "The Ed Sullivan Show." That was the
only place you ever saw them. Now, you can see any music
group when you want anytime.
QUESTION: One of the reliable things about late night,
though, is that we would tune into the old "Tonight
Show," and we would see your monologue until about 11:50
or so and comedy bit until, like, 12:05, and then 12:05
is the guest. Is that how you are going to kind of do it
in a similar fashion on your show?
JAY LENO: Well, you will have the monologue. You will
have the open comedy. Yeah, I think that’s fair to say.
I think that’s fair to say. It will go along that line,
which, obviously, we always open with the monologue. But
as I said before, we are not front-loading the show with
all of the comedy, and then it trails off at the end. We
don’t want to do tha
QUESTION: If I can follow that —
QUESTION: Jay, a question in the back.
JAY LENO: Sure.
QUESTION: Do you feel — oh, you have follow-up? Go
QUESTION: Yeah. Just following that in terms of the
JAY LENO: Yeah.
QUESTION: — how much of an effort — how conscious has
it been to try to differentiate this from "The Tonight
Show" even though Conan is doing a different "Tonight"
than you did?
JAY LENO: Oh, it will be real different. As I said,
there’s no desk. We are not going to have three guests,
hopefully just one guest, maybe two, and we will work
very hard to differentiate it from those shows, a lot of
correspondents, different areas that we will move to
throughout the set. We have a big set. As I said, we
have this racetrack where we can — to me, I like to have
the audience right here. When I was doing the show, I
loved having them right there, and when we do this bit
with the race cars, it will all happen in real-time, and
we can take a large portion of the audience right out
with us, right — you know, the guest star will be in
amongst the audience, and so, hopefully, people will feel
a part of the show. I’m not a big fan of these shows
where the host is here, and the audience is way over
there, and then you cut shots back and forth. I like
having it all fairly close.
QUESTION: Well, have there been any moments in the
planning thus far where you were talking about a segment,
and then you or someone else sort of had to remind
yourselves that, hey, no, this is something we have to
leave for "The Tonight Show" to do?
JAY LENO: No.
QUESTION: Speaking of the audience, Jay —
JAY LENO: Yeah.
QUESTION: — is there going to be a lot of participation
on stage at well?
JAY LENO: I think so. I hope so. Yeah. I mean, I’d
like to give that sort of — you know, I like people. I
like being in among people. Even when we do the
"Jaywalkings," we always try to be fair. We don’t make
fun of anybody. I say to people, "I’m going to ask you
questions," and they always say, "Oh, I love those idiots
you talk to on the show because people are so stupid."
O.K. "And you are a college graduate?" "Yes, I am."
"What do you do?" "I’m a — I’m a — I work for an IT
company." "Great." "Who is the first president of the
United States?" "Abraham Lincoln." "O.K. Thank you."
You know, I mean — so — I mean, I like that. I like
involving them. I like making them a part of the show.
If people hang themselves, great.
QUESTION: Jay —
QUESTION: I’ve got it.
QUESTION: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Any pressure? Do you feel — you don’t —
JAY LENO: No. Do you know something? I did "The
Tonight Show" for 17 years. When I got "The Tonight
Show," it was #1. It’s like the America’s Cup. When I
handed "The Tonight Show" off, it was still #1, whooh.
If this show is a success, great. If it’s not a success,
"Well, he hosted ‘The Tonight Show.’ Did he do anything
after that?" "No, no."
QUESTIN: Jay, here in the back.
QUESTION: Here on the right.
QUESTION: A final question.
JAY LENO: Yeah.
QUESTION: You are talking about having correspondents
and packages and so forth.
JAY LENO: Yes.
QUESTION: Is there going to be a little bit of a "Daily
Show" seasoning to this show?
JAY LENO: No, not really. No, not really. This — you
know, we are sort of a — I mean, I love "The Daily
Show," and obviously, that’s a great show, and so is
Colbert. This show is a — well, it will be just more —
not that those shows are not accessible. I don’t mean it
that way, but hopefully something for everybody. It’s —
I sort of like the "big tent" aspect of it.
QUESTION: Jay, back here.
QUESTION: In the back, at the right, here.
JAY LENO: Yeah. Yeah.
QUESTION: Way over here. There has been, certainly
initially, some resentment about the five hours of
otherwise primetime that would have been taken up by
scripted drama. I’m wondering if any of that —
JAY LENO: Well, let’s look at all of the fine scripted d
dramas. "The Biggest Loser"? "Dateline"? Not really,
QUESTION: But there has been some comment. I’m
wondering if any of your friends in the newspaper
industry, anybody has come to you and offered criticism?
JAY LENO: Well, the one thing you have is — no. I
think you have the best scripted dramas. There’s more of
them on TV now than you ever did before. USA cable, you
have "Burn Notice." You have all of these shows that are
on. There are places to go now where you can get that.
So I don’t see that as a problem. And the idea is, look,
we are going to do this anyway. Do you want the job? We
are not going — NBC tried scripted programming at 10
o’clock, "Lipstick Jungle," "Kidnapped," "My Own Worst
Enemy," hugely expensive shows. I thought they were
O.K., but for some reason, they didn’t catch on. So now
you try something different. And the other side of that
is — the thing that sort of annoys me is the fact that
we use writers. "The Tonight Show" writers, if you look,
are in the top five percent of the highest-paid writers
in the guild. I don’t flip my guys. I don’t switch them
off. So, consequently, we have a number of writers. And
I would guess "The Tonight Show" writers, eh, it’s
probably not as many as five different dramas, but you’d
be surprised. There’s a lot of them, and they are the
highest paid — I’m proud to say they are the
highest-paid writers in the guild or amongst. They are
in the top five percent, all of "The Tonight Show"
writers. So in terms of taking work away from people, I
don’t think so. I think you are just switching it over
here. O.K. Instead of drama writers, O.K., now you have
comedy writers. If you want to say drama writers are
better than comedy writers, you are welcome to say that.
I don’t necessarily agree.
QUESTION: Jay, right here in the front. Before you came
up, the suggestion was made that you were going to get
guests involved in the —
JAY LENO: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: — comedy rather than just, you know, having a
conversation with them.
JAY LENO: Well, that’s the idea until the publicist
steps in and says, "My client is not doing that."
QUESTION: Well, that sort of leads into what I was
saying. You talked about getting involved in the "green"
challenge and stuff like that. Do you want to get them
to do something more active than just plugging in their
movie and —
JAY LENO: Yeah. I think that’s what’s fine. I think
that’s what makes it a more interesting show.
QUESTION: And is there a fear that some people might not
come on the show because they are scared of, you know,
not being prepared?
JAY LENO: Then don’t come on the show. I mean, that’s
fine. I mean, that’s the chance that you take. I mean,
as I said, I’ve had a number of celebrities call me that
really like the idea of the green-car challenge, A,
because we are promotin
g green. And I like cars, and you
want to be seen as responsible. So, by making it a
"green" car and an electric vehicle, I think you kill two
birds with one stone. You have fun. You go fast. You
burn rubber. You slide around. You are not wasting
Middle Eastern fuel. And the celebrities get to have a
little fun, and some of them might be challenging. You
know, when you have that in-car camera in there and you
hear the celebrity go "oh, shit," I mean, that will be
QUESTION: Jay, given the options that you had when
you — here in the back right.
JAY LENO: Yeah.
QUESTION: Given the options you had when you took this
job and now that this show has become one of the most
controversial shows in TV history and it hasn’t even hit
the air yet —
JAY LENO: That shows you how bad the state of television
is, isn’t it? "Middle-aged" — "middle-aged"? "Older,
middle-aged comedian is doing a show. It’s
controversial." And what’s the question?
QUESTION: Well, have you had moments through this summer
where you thought to yourself even briefly, for a moment,
"My God, what have I got myself into? I have to — now
I’m counted on to save the network. Maybe I should have
just gone to ABC"?
JAY LENO: (Makes sound.) I’m not counted on to save the
network. The network is on its own. Screw them. Leave.
I’m not here to save the network. I got this job — do
you know something? I didn’t want to change networks
because, to the general public, when you change networks,
A, you are greedy, you wanted more money, or something
like that. I don’t have an agent. I don’t have a
manager. I’ve been with NBC my whole life. There are
things I like about it, things I don’t like about it, but
much like a marriage, you work it out. And when all of
this came down, they said, "How about this?" And I said,
"O.K." We talked about it, but they’ve really thrown
their support behind it. I think it will be fun. I
think it will be an exciting challenge. As I said, I was
getting a little, kind of, complacent in "The Tonight
Show." I’ve been working out every day. I’m getting in
shape for this. I’m excited about it. I think it will
be a lot of fun. Hey, if we go down in flames, we will
be laughing on the way down, believe me. But I think —
I think it’s something different. At least it shakes up
the landscape a little bit, another "He’s a cop. She’s a
doctor. They are married. Let’s finally fight crime."
You know, how many of those can you watch?
QUESTION: Jay, a couple of short questions here.
JAY LENO: Sure.
QUESTION: First of all, with all of the fancy stuff,
will there be a place for someone to come up — in and do
stand-up comedy or —
JAY LENO: Of course. Of course. They are more than
welcome to do that as well. I’m just saying I would like
to make stars on this show. I would like to find the
next generation of comedy talent. I would like to find
the man or woman that will replace me if this show is a
success. So I think we can have a lot of fun here.
QUESTION: Okay. And do you really run four miles a day?
JAY LENO: Yeah, I do, actually. I’ve been running four
QUESTION: Have you figured out how much you’ve lost —
how much weight you’ve lost?
JAY LENO: I lost about 10 or 12 pounds —
JAY LENO: — and hope I lose a few more pounds. But I
feel good, and I’m excited about it. You kind of get
into that — I kind of get into that "Tonight Show" rut.
You know, you are sitting there and, "Oh, another Dodger
dog. Is that so?"
QUESTION: And another thing I was going to ask, Rick
mentioned in passing that you don’t drink, and somehow,
it just surprised me because you are a guy that works
biker bars and stuff like that.
JAY LENO: I’ve never had a drink in my life.
QUESTION: Seriously? Any particular reason for that 0r
JAY LENO: I was always the designated driver in high
school. I was always the kid that was — since I was the
car guy, I was always driving people, and it was just not
something I ever had any interest in. I have nothing
against it. People can drink all they want, but drinking
and drugs, it just doesn’t interest me, it never has, and
it’s just one of those things. The audience is stunned
Suddenly, I’m a freak. Wow. Talk about controversial.
"What? What? Jesus." Yes?
QUESTION: Going back to when you scooted in on your
little motorcycle —
JAY LENO: Actually, you know, it was a pretty big bike.
It was a Harley. It wasn’t a little motorcycle, but go
QUESTION: I stand corrected.
JAY LENO: All right.
QUESTION: O.K. That, yes, you have changed from then
and now. You are so confident now. If you remember the
first couple of weeks after you took over "The Tonight
Show," you were very nervous, uncomfortable. I mean, you
looked almost like you were doing Rodney Dangerfield up
there. You were sweating and tugging your tie.
JAY LENO: Right.
QUESTION: How do you sit up here now and say "Screw the
network" and all? Where does that confidence come from?
JAY LENO: I’m rich now.
That’s what it comes down to, you know. If it doesn’t
work (makes sound), I say — this is what I tell a young
performer: "Show business pays a lot of money so, when
they screw you, you have something left." That’s why it
does. And I realize at this point I’m doing it now
because I like it. As I said, I don’t have an agent. I
don’t have a manager. NBC said, "How is this deal?" I
said, "Fine." There wasn’t a lot of — you know, I don’t
want to own the show. I don’t want — you know, I never
wanted to own property because I didn’t want to be a
landlord, and I don’t want to be a boss. I like doing
the show, writing jokes, you know. I like — I like that
whole part of it. The rest of it really doesn’t interest
QUESTION: Jay —
JAY LENO: Yes.
QUESTION: — over here in the middle. Was there ever a
period where there was some tension between you and Conan
because of this, because he got —
JAY LENO: Between Conan and I? No, never any tension
between Conan and I. Between the network? Yeah,
probably a little bit. But, look, Conan is my friend.
We’ve been friends a long time. Do you know something?
America, television, it’s a football. Whoever controls
the ball controls the game, and when you — when you —
when you play, that’s how you play. It’s like I heard
somebody ask about "Oh, are there going to be booking
wars between you and Conan?" No. Will we fight like
cats and dogs to get the guests? Yes. I mean, I have to
go to my General Motors analogy. You know, when General
Motors had separate divisions like Buick and Oldsmobile
and they each made their own engine, that’s when those
companies were strong because Buick would come out with
something, and Oldsmobile would go, "Ah, we’ve got to
come out with a motor bigger, stronger, faster." And
then they would come out with something, and then they
would be the leader. And then — and then Cadillac would
come in. And eac
h one developed their own stuff all
under the same umbrella, and it was a strong company that
had 72 percent of the market. When they all decided to
make one engine and put them in all of the cars, that’s
when the company went down, and that’s when they went
bankrupt. I’ll fight like tooth and nail with Conan to
get a guest, but if someone — there are people who say
"I’m going to do Conan." "O.K. Well, do us two weeks
later," or "We are going to do Jay first." "Fine.
Whatever." But that doesn’t mean you don’t like each
other, you are not friends. It’s just — it’s a game.
When you go out to play a game with your friends you play
to win, and you tease and you trash-talk, and that’s the
NATE KIRTMAN: We have time for one more question.
JAY LENO: Yes.
QUESTION: Jay, I have a question straight behind you.
You and Conan don’t have any problems, but do you feel in
a way like you are experiencing now what 17 years ago
Letterman was experiencing when you got "The Tonight
Show" and he had to create his own show?
JAY LENO: Oh, I never thought of it like that. Well,
Dave had a show. He had the "Late Night with David
Letterman." So you mean when he went to CBS?
QUESTION: Yeah, because he wanted — that was the job
that he wanted, and you got it instead. And you had that
job that you wanted, and now you have to do this.
JAY LENO: I don’t have to do this.
It’s not you have to do this. It’s not like —
QUESTION: But the network decided that they wanted
someone else to take over "The Tonight Show."
JAY LENO: Right. Right. Well, do you know the one
thing you can’t be? Do you know the one thing that kills
people in this town is bitterness. You are angry over
some perceived slight. NBC’s logic is that when you are
hosting "The Tonight Show," you give it up when you are
#1. That way the show stays strong before you hand it
off to the next person. I get it. I understand that.
It makes perfect sense, and I understand the logic behind
it. Do you feel a little twinge? You go, "Yeah. O.K.
I, kind of, would have liked doing it a little bit
longer." That’s O.K. But, you know, you are a grown-up.
You’ve had your chance. There’s only so much pie you can
eat. O.K.? You can’t have the whole pie. You just eat
as much as you want. So I enjoyed doing that. When this
opportunity came along, they seemed generally interested
and excited about it. No desire to go to ABC and go
against Conan, ooh, I’m going to screw them, you know,
because that’s bitterness, and that’s what ruins any
business. And when you go into it with the logic of I’m
going to get that guy instead of I’m focusing on the
audience — you know, there’s nothing worse than watching
a comedian on stage, male or female that’s just gotten
divorced, because they go, "You know, I saw my ex-wife
(loudly) today," you know. And that’s what — and that’s
what kills — it kills creativity. It kills everything.
You know, you put your head down, you move forward, and
you try something new. And, right now, I would rather be
doing this than "The Tonight Show" because I think this
is an interesting challenge. It’s more fun. We are
doing things we couldn’t do under the umbrella of "The
Tonight Show" because it wasn’t "Tonight Show" style.
NATE KIRTMAN: Thank you for your questions. Please join
us at our all-star party featuring Oxygen cooking demos
in "The Naughty Kitchen."
JAY LENO: Thank you guys.