Jay Leno shared his thoughts on the disastrous Tonight Show transition in a rare appearance on Tuesday’s Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen. When asked by Cohen for “one thing” he’d redo about his controversial return to late night, Leno stated, “I can’t think of anything I’d do different.”
Jay Leno’s Tonight Show debacle resurfaces
In case anyone forgot the decade-old drama, NBC replaced Leno with Conan O’Brien—then the host of Late Night—in 2009. Less than a year later, NBC wanted to bump O’Brien’s time slot due to slipping ratings and effectively give the show back to the late night giant. The Conan host declined and NBC gave him the boot, paying out a monstrous amount of money. TBS then gave him his now-popular show Conan. The Tonight Show controversy was so complicated that it has its own 11-section Wikipedia entry (2010 Tonight Show confict) and a book, The War for Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy by Bill Carter.
Leno confidently defended his stance on the Bravo talk show—which also featured fellow guest Judd Apatow chiming in—during a segment called Plead The Fifth. “They’re ratings-based shows. 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 come back. So there’s not a lot different I would have done.” Coincidentally (or not), O’Brien aired his much-anticipated, half-hour format last night, after a three-month hiatus.
David Letterman and Jay Leno are fine, says Leno
This isn’t Leno’s only complicated relationship with a fellow late night host. During the interview, Leno also discussed his misunderstood relationship with David Letterman (about which, there’s a whole other Bill Carter book). Leno clarified that they have not talked to each other recently but they do not “hate” each other. Leno stated that he is a “huge fan” and that, “sure, I’d go on” Letterman’s newly-renewed Netflix show—if asked.
For the past several years, the punchline workhorse has hosted Jay Leno’s Garage on CNBC and performs many Sunday nights at The Comedy and Magic Club in Hermosa Beach.
Watch Leno’s comments on Conan here:
Watch Leno’s comments on Letterman here: