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Jay Leno is speaking about the late-night drama that once surrounded him.
The former “Tonight Show” host discussed his lengthy career in an interview with Bill Maher for his “Club Random” podcast.
Leno famously left “The Tonight Show” in May 2009 before he was replaced by Conan O’Brien, with his slot moving to 10 pm with “The Jay Leno Show”, but ratings weren’t great for either show.
NBC pushed back both shows, with Leno on at 11:30 p.m. and Conan on after midnight.
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O’Brien eventually left and Leno returned to the “Tonight Show”. He stayed there until 2014.
In the chat with Maher, Leno insisted he never meant to “deliberately sabotage” O’Brien’s “Tonight Show”, despite rumours.
Leno said, “It doesn’t work that way. You’re trying to do the best you can,” Deadline reported.
When questioned why he stayed at NBC instead of moving to a different network, Leno responded, “Sometimes the czar you have is better than the one you’re going to.”
“Then you have your old team shooting at you as well. I just figured, Let’s just play this out and see what happens. This all happened fairly quickly.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Leno spoke about Jimmy Kimmel and the 2008 discussion they shared when Leno considered moving to ABC.
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At the time, Leno suggested “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” be pushed back and air from midnight to 12:35 am — a move Kimmel approved.
However, Kimmel wasn’t so OK with Leno never letting him know that he’d decided to stay at NBC.
He told Maher, “I suppose I should have called Jimmy and explained to him again, but I didn’t. I don’t know why I didn’t. I just didn’t. I thought he probably would figure it out. But I think maybe he was hurt by that, and I apologized to him for that.”
Leno then spoke about streaming services and how they’re affecting late-night television.
“The toughest thing about late night now is that the commercials. You know, you get used to streaming and watching Netflix and I go, ‘Let me see what the guys are doing.’ I go, ‘Another commercial?’ I mean, there’s a nine-minute break at 12 am to 12:09 am on almost all the shows. After 11 pm at night you can add more commercials so….”