The Jay Leno Show Has NBC’s Hope

The Jay Leno Show Has NBC Hoping for a Hit
Great Chat with Jay Leno about New Show

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NBC has boasted that The Jay Leno Show marks a new era in television. Hosted by “America’s Favorite TV Personality,” according to the 2009 Harris Poll, the comedy-music-variety show is the first-ever entertainment program to be stripped, Monday through Friday at 10 p.m., across primetime on network TV. But Leno is unfazed by all the fuss. Why? “I’m rich now,” Jay said with a big laugh. “Save the network? The network is on its own, screw them.”

Wow, did Leno just blow his nice guy image. Not really. He added, “I’ve got this job. I think it will be fun, and I think it will be an exciting challenge, and I think it will be fun. Hey, if we go down in flames, we will be laughing on the way down, believe me.”

We had a great chat with Jay Leno that revealed he’s the same good fellow who kept his classmates chuckling when he was growing up in Andover, Massachusetts. And he’s the same hardworking standup comic that took over for Johnny Carson as host of The Tonight Show 17 years ago.

It was important for Leno to do his new show on the same NBC Studios lot in Burbank where The Tonight Show filmed, before Conan O’Brien moved the set to Universal Studios Hollywood.

Jay said, “There’s a great history of talk shows in Burbank, that goes way back. And I like Burbank, I’m familiar with it. I know Universal City is nice, but I don’t want to be in a theme park. Universal CityWalk always makes me laugh — we have a city that is so crazy to live in that we have to build a fake city that people can go to walk around. I find that hilarious.”

One of the really fun things Jay is looking forward to is getting the guests out of the chairs and into the drivers’ seat with The Green Challenge, car racing segment.

“I like it because whenever I would drive an electric, hydrogen or any type of green car to the show, the female guests would go ‘Hey, what is that?’ Without sounding sexist, the guys would always be interested in cars, and the women could care less. But this is something where the women would say, ‘Hey, how does that work?’ And they seemed really interested. Drew Barrymore said she would like to drive. So I hope to get more of the women involved with it.”

A special race track was created right next to his studio for the Green Challenge.

What guests are on his wish list? “Elvis. Seriously, I’d love to get President Obama again. He was the greatest guest.”

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Leno is a person who’s pleased with his life right now, and he said the trick is “to lead a normal life and make show business money. I have the same friends I had in high school. I’m still married to the same woman. I’m still driving the same car, actually. So it’s fun. It’s fun to come home and have enough money to take care of relatives, or any problems that people have, without going crazy. It’s just a matter of putting things in perspective.”

What was Jay’s first car? “My first car is a ‘34 Ford pick up truck. I bought it when I was 14. I spent two years driving up and down the driveway. And I was always the designated driver in high school. I went to Hanover High School, and when there was a party I would be the one getting stuck with driving all the drunk kids home. They were all my friends.”

Even with his grueling schedule, putting on a fresh and funny show five nights a week, Leno still plans on doing standup gigs around the country, and headlining in Vegas when he can on weekends.

“I’m not a big time off guy,” he revealed. “I went to Hawaii and it drove me nuts. Once I had a gig in Hawaii and I said to my wife let’s go to Hawaii and we’ll come back Sunday. So Friday I do the gig. Saturday I go down to the beach, and I look at my watch and it’s 10 o’clock. Okay, I’m sitting there, and about four and a half hours or so go by, and I look at my watch again and it’s 10:15. I figure I got sand in my watch and it stopped. So I ask someone ‘what time is it?’ And he says 10:15. I hadn’t been there four and a half hours. I had only been there fifteen minutes! So we’re on the noon flight back. Like I said, I’m not a big ‘time off’ guy.”

So what does he do to relax? Leno has an impressive collection of classic cars and motorcycles. “I enjoy working on them in the garage.” He updates his fans on his website www.jaylenosgarage.com. And you can always tune in at 10 p.m. on NBC.


Frank Barron is the former editor of The Hollywood Reporter, having served twice in that capacity. In between, he was West Coast news director for Billboard Publications, supervising their five magazines. Barron also created the western TV series “The Man From Blackhawk” for the ABC network. For more than three decades he and writer-wife Margie Barron have covered Hollywood for Production Update magazine, and they currently contribute to numerous publications. Frank started in showbiz as publicity director for the KHJ radio and television station. Before moving to California, he was a sports editor in New Jersey.

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