The following biography
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Jay Leno (born James Douglas Muir-Leno April 28,
1950) is an American comedian who is best known as the current host of NBC
television's long-running variety and talk program The Tonight Show. He also
owns Big Dog Productions, a company that co-produces the show.
Born: 28 April 1950
New Rochelle, New York, USA
Occupation: The Tonight Show talk show host,
comedian, and television producer
Leno was born in New Rochelle, New York to a
Scottish mother who came to the United States as a teenager and an
Italian-American father. He grew up in Andover, Massachusetts, and received
his Bachelor's degree in Speech therapy from Emerson College in 1973.
Leno started his career performing in nightclubs,
bars, and any place that would give him even five minutes of stage time,
including Dairy Queen. In Cambridge, Massachusetts, he
performed at the restaurant in the Orson Welles Cinema complex. He quickly
became known for his work ethic and nice demeanor both on- and offstage, as well
as for his striking appearance, in particular his large chin and his sarcastic
personality. Though he had made the occasional foray onto television in the form
of guest appearances on The Tonight Show, then hosted by Johnny Carson, stardom
eluded him and he continued to work wherever he was allowed. It has been
reported that Leno would sometimes work as many as eight or nine clubs in one
During the late 1970s he was frequently featured as
the opening act at John Denver concerts.
For a few years in the 1970's, both Jay and his
later rival David Letterman wrote for standup comic Jimmie "J.J" Walker, who was
starring in the sitcom "Good Times."
Leno began making more frequent appearances on
television when many of his friends and contemporaries became more influential
on late night programs. Leno made a record number of appearances on Late Night
with David Letterman. His popularity was noted by NBC executives, who decided to
make Leno the permanent guest and then the host for The Tonight Show after
Johnny Carson left that position.
Even after serving as host of The Tonight Show for
14 years, Leno still performs stand-up on a regular basis; he often performs
weekend shows in Las Vegas after wrapping up show production for the week. In
addition, as a regular tune-up for The Tonight Show, he performs frequently on
weekends at the Comedy & Magic Club in Hermosa Beach, California.
On an episode of Inside the Actor's Studio Leno
stated that he has never touched a cent of his Tonight Show earnings, stating
that he still lives off the earnings of his stand-up performances. When asked by
James Lipton why he does this he stated that "My original profession was and
still is a comedian, not a personality".
Host of The Tonight Show
When Carson retired in 1992 Jay Leno became the new
permanent host of The Tonight Show after a long period of debate and
negotiations with Leno and David Letterman (who had been considered by many to
be Carson's heir apparent). Letterman signed a deal with CBS, sparking an
ongoing late-night rivalry between the two talk-show hosts. Although Letterman's
Late Show led in the ratings at the start, The Tonight Show took over the lead
in 1995 and has, on the whole, had higher ratings ever since.
Although known mainly for his wit, he has also
shown his sensitive side on air. When The Tonight Show came back after the
September 11 attacks, he nixed his usual monologue to talk about what had
happened. He also spoke about the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. In addition,
following the skating controversy surrounding the ice skating pairs event at the
2002 Winter Olympics, Leno invited the Canadian pairs teams onto his show the
following day and waved a Canadian flag and played "O Canada" for them. And when
Johnny Carson died in January 2005, he did one night of the The Tonight Show as
a tribute to his predecessor.
In 1998, Jay Leno and his show partner Kevin
Eubanks were invited to a wrestling show called WCW Road Wild 1998, from
Sturgis, South Dakota, in which Leno teamed with Diamond Dallas Page to wrestle
against Hulk Hogan and WCW President Eric Bischoff, following a prelude in which
the wrestling stars had appeared on The Tonight Show. The match ended with Page
and Leno's victory when Eubanks sneaked a fast Diamond Cutter on Bischoff.
In 2002, Leno had a group of professionals build
him a robot called "Chin Killa" for Battlebots. Although the officials from the
show let his robot fight in fun matches, they wouldn't allow it to fight in
tournaments because it was built by professionals.
On May 12, 2003, he and former Today Show host
Katie Couric switched places, meaning Leno co-hosted the Today Show with Matt
On The Tonight Show's 50-year anniversary episode
(September 27, 2004), he announced that he would retire as host in 2009, when
his current contract expires, as part of an arrangement that allowed NBC to have
Late Night host Conan O'Brien replace him.
According to the Forbes 100, Leno earned $32
million in 2005, which is surprisingly less than his rival David Letterman who
tops Leno by $8 million, with a $40 million paycheck in '05. Letterman
apparently owns the rights to his program, as opposed to Leno inheriting the
long running Tonight Show.
Acting, cameos and voice acting
Leno is not widely known as an actor (legendarily,
in auditioning for a role on Mork & Mindy which would go to Jay Thomas, he was
told that he had a face that would scare children), but he had a number of small
roles early in his career in mostly unsuccessful movies; an exception was a bit
part in the more popular film, American Hot Wax.
His most prominent role was in the 1989 film
Collision Course, a comedy about a mismatched crime fighting pair, in which he
played a detective opposite Pat Morita. When Steve Martin appeared on Leno's The
Tonight Show in December 2005, a clip from the movie appeared during Martin's
game of "Name That Clip" (Leno was supposed to differentiate clips from Martin's
two new movies Shopgirl and Cheaper by the Dozen 2, with Martin taking twenty
dollars from Leno if he got one wrong.) The last clip played was from Collision
Course, which Leno immediately said was "a horrible movie." Martin said Leno was
right, but he would still lose twenty dollars for making it.
Leno also appeared in an episode of the television
series Good Times, in which his character promotes getting tested for venereal
diseases. His acting debut actually found himself as one of the "pool guys" in
the original 1977 version of Fun with Dick and Jane.
Since becoming the host of the Tonight Show, Leno
has made a number of cameo appearances, usually appearing as a talk show host or
making fun of his famous chin. In 1994 he played "Bedrock's Most Wanted Host,"
along with Cynthia Clemons, in the live-action comedy film The Flintstones. Also
in 1994, he played himself in Major League II which starred Charlie Sheen. In
1998, he made a voice cameo as himself on an episode of The Simpsons entitled
The Last Temptation of Krust. He also made appearances on the sitcoms The Nanny,
Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Titus. Making fun of his own facial features, it is
true that he plays the "Crimson Chin" on The Fairly Odd Parents. In 2005, he
lent his voice to a talking fire hydrant in the computer animated movie, Robots.
He also made a cameo appearance for Fox NFL Sunday in a ficticious interview
with prognasticator Frank Caliendo's impression of Terry Bradshaw. In 2006, he
provided the voice of an armadillo named "Fast Tony" in Ice Age 2: The Meltdown,
and in the Pixar/Disney film Cars he voiced "Jay Limo". He made a cameo
appearance in an episode of TV sitcom Just Shoot Me, in a fictitious interview
with David Spade's character, Dennis Finch. He made at least one appearance on
NBC's The West Wing playing himself at a California fundraiser for the
president, Jed Bartlet. He has also appeared on Home Improvement as a mechanic
in a wealthy car collector's garage (in reality his own collection).
He also appeared as himself, doing Tonight Show
monologues regarding the main characters in the films Mr. 3000, Contact, First
Daughter, Dave, In & Out, and The Birdcage. In the movie Space Cowboys, he
hosted a fictional Tonight Show segment featuring the four astronaut
protagonists (played by Clint Eastwood, James Garner, Tommy Lee Jones, and
Donald Sutherland) just before their space mission. Later, in a case of life
imitating art, the four actors appeared together on The Tonight Show to promote
Michael Jackson trial
In the 2005 trial of Michael Jackson over
allegations of child abuse, Leno appeared as a defense witness (many celebrity
defense witnesses had been expected, but Leno was one of the few who actually
testified). As a witness in the case, Leno was initially not allowed to continue
telling jokes about Jackson or the case, which had been a fixture of the show's
opening monologue in particular; however, he and his show's writers exploited a
legal loophole by having Leno briefly step aside while stand-in comedians took
the stage and told jokes regarding the trial. Stand-ins included Roseanne Barr,
Drew Carey, Brad Garrett, and Dennis Miller, among others.
After NBC challenged this gag-order, the judge
permitted Leno to make jokes, as long as they were not related to his testimony.
In his testimony, the defense expected him to say
he called police to say the accuser was coached by his mother to ask for money;
Leno testified he never called the police, no money was asked for, and there was
no coaching, but the calls seemed unusual and scripted .
In automobile collecting circles, Jay Leno is known
as an avid student, collector and restorer of cars and motorcycles. He has a
large antique car collection on which he constantly works in his spare time, and
he routinely drives cars from his collection (including an original Stanley
Steamer) from his home to his studio. He is also a promoter of the mechanical
crafts through a column in Popular Mechanics and his educational activities.
Leno rides his motorcycles in his spare time.
In 2001, Leno auctioned off a Harley-Davidson
motorcycle signed by his celebrity guests in an effort to help victims of the
September 11 attacks. The bike sold for about $360,000. In 2005, he repeated the
gesture twice: early in the year to aid victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean
Earthquake — the bike sold for $810,000; and later to help the victims of
Hurricane Katrina. That bike sold for $1,505,100.
Leno's custom "Tank Car", a 21-foot-long
aluminum-bodied roadster powered by a V12 engine from an M-47 Patton tank, was
featured in the 2005 racing game Gran Turismo 4.
Leno's column in the American automotive magazine
Popular Mechanics showcases his extensive car collection. Additionally, Leno
uses his column as a platform to give advice about various automotive topics,
including restoration and unique models, such as his jet powered motorcycle.
Jay Leno's passion for classic automobiles led him
to an affiliation with the Automobile Restoration Department at McPherson
College. Today Leno serves on the National Advisory Board for the college's
automotive restoration program and helps fund the Fred Duesenberg Memorial
"Leno even has a Hot Wheels hand painted with water
colors" - Felipe Sanchez
On June 14, 2006, in an episode of The Tonight
Show, Jay Leno said he defined his politics as fiscally conservative and
Leno worked at McDonald's on Main Street in
Andover, Massachusetts in the early '70s
Since 1980, Leno has been married to Mavis Leno,
who is known for her work with Afghan women under the Taliban. They have no
children, by mutual agreement.
In late October 2005, Leno told The New York Daily
News for an October 31 article that he and rival David Letterman have not spoken
to each other in 13 years.
On February 19, 2006, Leno drove the pace car to
start the 2006 Daytona 500, and the 2006 NASCAR season.
Resides in Beverly Hills, California.
He suffers from dyslexia.
In a June 1994 episode, Leno was delivering a
monologue that included something about legendary The Price Is Right host Bob
Barker. However, Barker didn't buy into that, and made a cameo appearance to
warn Leno "No more Bob Barker jokes." Leno agreed to that.
Leno voices Cartman's Kitty on the TV show South
At one point in his life, Leno worked 300 clubs a
Leno has noted that one of his major pet peeves is
when people dress up their pets. He usually mentions this during the Headlines
segment, when he shows a picture submitted of a pet having been dressed up.
Leno always recognized and appreciated the popular
comedians of yesteryears on his show. On the death of Bob Hope in 2003 and Mike
Douglas in 2006, he recognized their valuable contributions to the entertainment
industry and also talked about their pleasing personalities during his Tonight
Show segments on TV.
Leno has on several occasions made fun of his large
chin. Every year on a hot summer day, he broadcasts a sketch where he climbs to
the top of the Burbank NBC Studios to use his chin to eclipse the sun, saving
the people below from that day's sweltering heat wave.
On August 6, 2006, Leno appeared as a guest host of
Ebert & Roeper in the place of Roger Ebert who was having medical problems at
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