Jay Leno Explains Himself Via 60 Minutes

Late night TV industry watchers have applauded Jimmy Fallon for choosing, from the very beginning of his transition to The Tonight Show, to keep in regular, friendly contact with the man he is succeeding, Jay Leno. That politically astute methodology will ring even 20/20 wiser once the masses have had a chance this weekend to watch Leno’s 60 Minutes interview.

JayLeno60MinutesThe exiting host obviously waited until he was on his way out to give his first in-depth interview about the Conan O’Brien debacle. Still, it’s a coup for Steve Kroft and no doubt a piece that will generate renewed discussion of a very sorry 2009 NBC episode. From the CBS News release:

“I was blindsided… [NBC executives said] ‘You’re out…’ and I went ‘Okay.’” Leno says he never asked NBC why, but the news hurt him like a romantic break-up. “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, okay?”

Leno also says he was devastated to be portrayed as the bad guy when NBC took the popular O’Brien off The Tonight Show when its ratings tanked. “I didn’t quite understand that, but I never chose to answer any of those things or make fun of any other people involved,” he tells Kroft. “It’s not my way.”

An added bonus for Leno fans is the fact that the 60 Minutes report features some footage of his generally camera-shy wife Mavis. There’s also a segment that takes Leno and Kroft back to the stand-up comic’s hometown of Andover, MA. Kroft similarly interviewed Leno when the latter took over The Tonight Show in 1992.

Watch a brief excerpt of the 60 Minutes conversation here.

Previously on Mediabistro:
Joan Rivers Tells Johnny Carson It Still Hurts
The End of a Long, Glorious Tonight Show Run for ‘Beautiful Downtown Burbank’
So What Do You Do, Henry Bushkin, Attorney and Author of Johnny Carson?