Jay Leno

Jay Leno started out as a comedian. He worked for years, performing more than 300 nights a year at clubs around the country.

As a comedian, he appeared on 'The Tongight Show with Johnny Carson' and 'Late Night with David Letterman.'
Eventually, he became Carson's permanent guest-host.

In 1992, he beat out Letterman as the official replacement for Johnny Carson when Carson retired. Now, Leno and Letterman have a rivalry as the two modern kings of late night.

"Conan O'Brien will take over `The Tonight Show' in 2009," NBC Universal President and CEO Jeff Zucker said Monday (October 29, 2007).

A deal for Leno's exit was finalized in 2004 as part of NBC Universal's effort to keep "Late Night" host O'Brien from bolting to a competing network.
But Leno's been dropping hints of regret in his monologue for months now. Then on Oct. 15, 2007, the Los Angeles Times reported that Leno had grown reluctant to leave the “Tonight Show” as planned in 2009.

Jay Leno was born James Douglas Muir Leno, on April 28, 1950, in New Rochelle, New York to Angelo Leno, and insurance salesman, and Cathryn Leno, a homemaker. He raised in Andover, MA. As a student in grade school. Leno displayed his comic tendencies with pranks and practical jokes, and his fifth-grade teacher’s report card comments that “if Jay spent as much time studying as he does trying to be a comedian, he’d be a big star,” turned out to be prophetic. Leno is best known for being one of the busiest performers in comedy (for years he booked over 300 appearances annually), for his clean, observational brand of humor, and his cartoon-like face, which he made reference to in the title of his 1996 autobiography, Leading With My Chin. Jay Leno attended Emerson College in Boston, MA, where he majored in speech therapy (BA 1973). While in school, Leno performed stand-up comedy in local night clubs, and emceed talent shows for extra money. He moved to Los Angeles after graduation and wrote for the TV show Good Times (a job that fellow late-nighter David Letterman also had), and was a warm-up act for Johnny Mathis and Tom Jones. Leno made his first appearance on The Tonight Show in 1977, and was a regular on the variety show The Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr. Show. In the mid-80s, Leno hosted his first comedy special on TV. Jay Leno and the American Dream, and made numerous successful appearances on late-night TV, particularly Late Night with David Letterman. Later that year he signed a deal with NBC that made him one of two permanent guest hosts of The Tonight Show (he became the only guest host two years later). In 1992, Johnny Carson surprised many by retiring from his long stand as America’s beloved and premier talk show host. There had been speculation that David Letterman, whose “Late Night” show followed Carson’s, would take over hosting duties, a position he had publicly coveted. However, NBC picked the more clean-cut Leno, who most considered to be a safer, more middle-America-friendly choice. Initially, the transfer of hosting duties to Leno did not go smoothly, and there was a well-documented falling out between Leno and his long-time manager, Helen Kushnick, who had assumed executive-producing duties for the show. In what had become a cut-throat environment in the late-night talk show world, Kushnick was reported to have threatened potential guests not to appear on other talk shows if they wanted to be on The Tonight Show. Kushnick was eventually fired, and the show eventually gained momentum and a growing audience, and now leads the late-night ratings. Leno won the Emmy for hosting The Tonight Show in 1995. His contract with The Tonight Show was extended five years, at $40 million in 1993, and for another five years in 1998, this time at $100 million. Leno has been married to wife Mavis Nicholson since 1980. They live in Los Angeles, where he spends his spare time working on his collection of classic cars and motorcycles.


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