Jay Leno is coming back to television with his new offering, Jay Leno’s Garage, but that doesn’t mean Leno has taken his eyes off of his old stomping ground and, while he has plenty of opinions to offer concerning his former colleagues and competitors, Leno had the most to say about his one-time late night rival.
To be fair, Leno and Jimmy Kimmel were never really friendly (or even cordial) toward one another and some even feel Kimmel went too far with his constant digs at Jay, so it seems only fitting that Mr. Leno should offer his own opinion of Jimmy and his way of running ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live.
“The most [important] element you can have in doing a late-night show is kindness,” Leno said. “Because the show makes you arrogant. I think that’s Jimmy Kimmel’s problem. I think he’s a talented guy, I think he’s funny. But he has a mean streak, and it comes across.”
When asked for an example of that mean streak, Mr. Leno was quick to recall something he felt was particularly cruel and many might also agree that it was something done in poor taste.
“He does this thing where he takes Halloween candy from kids and the kids cry. What am I missing here? It is funny I guess, but it’s mean-based. I think that’s why he’s not higher in the ratings.”
Leno also reminisced about his long-time rival, David Letterman, and suggests that a dual retirement bash might have been a great way to go out for both of them.
“I thought we both should have gone out about the same time,” Leno said. “I was glad that I got out when I did.”
There was an idea for a reunion show, which would have had Leno and Letterman together on the same stage, but, as Jay recalls it, there didn’t seem to be equal enthusiasm on both parts.
“When I did my last show, I asked Dave to send a 10-second tape… they didn’t want to do it. All right, so why would I go all the way to New York? It’s just quid pro quo.”
Leno recalls that his way of conducting a late night talk show was quite different from the way that Letterman did his show, so, while they did compete with one another, Dave and Jay also learned from each other.
“When I first saw Dave, he was awkward on stage, but a brilliant wordsmith,” Leno recalled. “He could put words together in a very clever way … and when [Letterman] saw me, I think he liked my ability to be reactive and loud.”
Mr. Leno admits that he and David Letterman had shared a laugh or two through the years, but he also says that a friendship never really developed. Jay says David is just a hard person to know.
“Dave doesn’t really do that,” Leno shared. “He’s really funny, but Dave’s kind of an odd duck – he’s not that kind of guy.”
Jay Leno’s Garage will premiere this fall on CNBC.
[Featured image: Jay Leno courtesy of Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images]