Jay Leno provided insights into the rift between him and longtime late-night rival David Letterman, which has gone down as one of the most famous celebrity feuds in television history. Leno’s comments, told to Patrick Shanley, were published today by The Hollywood Reporter.
The piece was published ahead of this Sunday’s ceremony at the Kennedy Center in Washington in which Letterman will receive the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor — following past honorees including Leno, along with Steve Martin, Richard Pryor and other comedy legends.
“The idea that there was a huge rift between me and Dave — yeah, of course there was,” Leno said. “I think Dave felt really sad he didn’t get ‘The Tonight Show.’ And our shows were very competitive. Whether it’s two sports teams, or two boxers, you can trash talk each other, but it doesn’t mean you don’t respect each other. I think there was a mutual admiration. It’s not that we have a lot in common — we don’t — but I think that we have a mutual admiration for each other’s ability to make each other laugh.”
Leno also said: “The one thing about Dave was, even when he was mean to me, it was funny, and that’s all that matters.” The longtime “Tonight Show” host added: “There was no animosity there. Comics have a bond: You have more in common with your worst enemy if they’re a comic than you do with your best friend, because you share something that regular people just don’t get.”