Jay Leno was a stand-up comedian long before he was whomever you think he is now, and he's still the workaholic he has been for decades.
In a new interview with City Pages in Minnesota's Twin Cities to promote an upcoming gig there, Leno reacted pretty fairly to recent allegations by Howard Stern that Leno had stolen joke ideas for The Tonight Show, among other things.
Here's an audio excerpt, on video. Roll it!
Or if you prefer reading Leno's response:
Well first of all, if you see, there's a special called Jay Leno American Dream Special I taped it in 1984, we did a segment called Jaywalking, where I go out and talk to people on the street.
First of all, I did not invent that. Steve Allen was probably the first person on TV to do it, but people in radio did it, the New York Post did the "man on the street" interview.
This is something that gets terribly overblown. I know a couple weeks ago Conan was accused of taking a piece from Kimmel; he didn't. It was Sarah Palin hunting, and they showed her aiming a gun, and I think every comic in America did Sarah Palin killing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. And the fact that two shows happened to have a similar idea, you don't have to see every show. it doesn't mean anyone necessarily stole it.
I've never had a reputation for taking other peoples material. But that's Howard's thing, if he can get any traction with it–good luck. Let me know if any other comics agree with him, and then we'll deal with it. But Howard is Howard, that's what he does, the idea is you try to pick a fight with somebody and then they fight with you back in the media. And I don't do that, I just ignore him, and it's fine, he can do whatever he wants.
Other things we learned in the interview about Jay Leno: He never spends the night on the road. That's right. He flies straight home after the gig, whether it's Vegas, Minneapolis or your town! "That's just how you stay married, okay? Welcome to show business. I haven't spent a night in Vegas in 25 years. I fly home every night and go to work every day." And he doesn't believe for a second that David Letterman was serious when he said on a recent show that he'd only stick around for a couple of years longer. Same goes for him. "You do it until you don't do it anymore, I guess."