Bill Maher: In Defense Of Jay Leno

When Jay Leno left his position at The Tonight Show he didn’t part with too many friends. Leno, who famously won the slot in 1993 instead of David Letterman, had left the NBC talk show before taking his final bow in 2014. In 2009 host Conan O’Brien became Leno’s successor until ratings took a dip, which brought Leno’s return to the NBC show.

The media surrounding O’Brien’s sudden departure was fierce as news outlets did their best to report the confusing situation. According to most reports O’Brien was given no heads up about his departure after moving his whole crew from New York to Los Angeles. Everything that resulted in Leno’s rehiring didn’t leave the host with too many friends, even though he successfully continued to run The Tonight Show until his final bow in 2014.

That said, Leno still had one person in his corner and that’s left-wing talking head Bill Maher. During a special Hall of Fame induction, which saw Leno honored, Maher gave the comedian and host a tribute, acting as an honorable defense in Jay’s character. Bill Maher closed the ceremony in a “full-throated defense” of his friend during the Television Academy ceremony in Beverly Hills.

“He’s not perfect, but he’s held to a standard that no one else in the world is expected to live up to other than him.” said Maher. The HBO Real Time with Bill Maher host added that he has a 35-year friendship with Jay Leno and dismissed the fact that many people believed Leno “stole” Conan O’Brien’s dream job as he returned as host of The Tonight Show. Confused by the bad publicity the host has received, Maher said, “You have to work really, really hard to have a feud with Jay Leno.”

Recently Leno opened up during an interview with 60 Minutes about the Conan O’Brien debacle. Back in 2004 he learned that he would eventually be replaced by Conan O’Brien in 2009. Of the situation, Leno said, “I was blindsided. You know, you have a girl [who] says, ‘I don’t want to see you anymore.’ Why? You know, she doesn’t want to see you anymore, OK?”

Although he hasn’t publicly said anything about Conan O’Brien personally, there’s an air that the friendship can’t be mended. That said, Leno seems to be okay with his new successor Jimmy Fallon, who has had the gig for three weeks. “[Jimmy Fallon] is probably more like a young Johnny [Carson] than almost anybody since. And he’s really good.”

Other people who were inducted on Tuesday include Rupert Murdoch, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and David E. Kelley.

[Image credit: NBC Universal]