Jay Leno Opens Up About Late-Night Rivals David Letterman and Conan O'Brien
By Desiree Murphy
Roy Rochlin/Getty Images
Jay Leno is opening up about his supposed beef with fellow comedians.
The 68-year-old TV host was recently a guest on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen, where he got candid about his late-night rivals David Letterman and Conan O'Brien.
Back in 1992, Leno took over The Tonight Show following Johnny Carson's retirement, though many believed Letterman would be the one to score the job. While it appears there's been tension between the two ever since, Leno claims that's not the case.
"We don't hate each other," Leno said of Letterman. "The media makes a big thing about it. I am a huge fan."
"You know, when I started, Letterman was a great wordsmith. He could put things together, but he's kind of a hesitant performer," Leno continued. "I was a very loud, boisterous performer, but I wasn't that good a writer. So I'd watch him and go, 'Oh, man, how do you put those sentences together?' And he'd watch me and go, 'How can you be so confident on stage?' So I think we sort of took from each other a little bit."
In 2009, NBC gave The Tonight Show to O'Brien and moved Leno to a new show slotted at 10 p.m. But when the network wanted to move time slots around again, O'Brien refused, ultimately leaving The Tonight Show and having Leno return as host once again. Leno told Cohen that looking back, he "can't think of anything" he'd do differently.
"Look, they're rating-based shows," Leno explained. "It's not your decision. People act like it's your decision ... the network makes these decisions. They decide you're going to leave and then they decide when you're gonna come back. So, there is not a lot different I would have done."
Later on WWHL, Leno also spoke about Howard Stern, who has put him on blast several times throughout his career. He said he never got into it with the radio host, however, because "you're not going to win a feud with Howard."
"I don't respond. Never explain, never complain, that's my thing," said Leno. "Howard is good. If you start that feud, boom, you’re down. So if you just let it roll, and it’s fine."
"I think he's really talented," he added. "He's a good interviewer. I mean, he gets things out of people."