Jay Leno Reveals He Drove Himself Home With Facial Burns to Be With His Wife After Catching Fire

The incident in November left the comedian with burns on his face and hands.

After his face and body caught fire in a recent accident, Jay Leno wasn't focused on getting treatment -- he was concerned about his 76-year-old wife, Mavis. The 72-year-old late-night veteran was urged by doctors to go straight to the Grossman Burn Center in Los Angeles following the November incident, but he had other plans. 

"I drove home right after that... My wife doesn't drive anymore and I didn't want her stuck and not knowing what was going on," Leno explained to Hoda Kotb on the Today show in his first television interview since the incident. "It just seemed like the right thing to do, and I think it was." 

Kotb then asked, "So you loved your wife more than you worried about yourself?"

"Yeah, that's it!" he quipped. 

"Was that it?" the Today co-anchor pressed. 

"I think there's something to that," Leno replied in a more serious tone. 

But the funnyman couldn't resist throwing in a few more jokes, even when it came to his wife's reaction to his peeling face. 

"What did your wife say when she saw you?" Kotb asked him. 

"Oh, thrilled, yeah, yeah," he said before noting that she "of course" wanted Leno to immediately head to the hospital. 

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Once at the burn center, doctors had to scrape away layers of burned skin on his face and repair one of his ears. He also had to spend eight hours a day isolated in a hyperbaric chamber as part of the healing process. 

"It's basically a glass coffin," Leno recalled, noting that he thought about jokes and his act while in isolation. 

As for whether he was concerned about what he'd look like once he'd healed, the comedian joked, "When you look like me, you don't really worry about what you look like. Look, if I'm George Clooney, that's gonna be a huge problem."

Jokes aside, Leno isn't looking for sympathy following his injury. 

"People [who] work with their hands get injured every single day," he said. "And I don't want to be some whiny celebrity, 'Oh boo, boo hoo is me.' I don't want to be one of these people." 

Leno suffered burns on his face and hands as a result of the incident in his garage. His longtime friend, Dave Killackey, was fortunately there and saved his life by pulling him out from under his car and smothering the fire. 

"It was a 1907 White Steam Car," Leno said. "The fuel line was clogged, so I was underneath it. It sounded clogged and I said, 'Blow some air through the line,' and so he did."

Leno then said that "suddenly, boom, I got a face full of gas. And then the pilot light jumped and my face caught on fire."

He added, "And I said to my friend, I said, 'Dave, I’m on fire.' And Dave’s like, 'All right.' I said, 'No, Dave, I’m on fire.' And then, 'Oh my god.' Dave, my friend, pulled me out and jumped on top of me and kind of smothered the fire."

Leno has since returned to the stage for his standup comedy comeback. He been performing at The Comedy And Magic Club in Hermosa Beach, and will also be there this Sunday, Dec. 18 -- in addition to doing two shows on New Year's Eve at the venue.

"Jay has been doing a weekly show with us for over 40 years and we couldn't be more thrilled to see him healthy and back on our stage so soon after his accident," a spokesperson for the comedy club told ET.

Watch the clip below for more with the comedian.


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