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Larry King Live Weekend

The Best of Jay Leno

Aired March 3, 2001 - 9:00 p.m. ET



JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": People used to be ashamed to be stupid. Now it gets you on TV.


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, a late-night success story whose humor is legendary. The best of Jay Leno, next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.

Thanks for joining us. When I first spoke to Jay Leno it was 1986. He was hopscotching the country spreading his distinctive brand of stand-up comedy, and it'd caught on.

By then, he was guest hosting "The Tonight Show" for Johnny Carson. I asked him how he liked that job.


J. LENO: Yeah, I love that. That was a great job. I had a great time. I really enjoyed it. I'm going to do it again in December.

KING: We go to ...

J. LENO: Imagine the Russians watching now. They probably think that's a scrambled sign of some sort.

KING: Yeah. OK. Indianapolis, hello.

CALLER: Yeah, Jay.

J. LENO: Hello.

CALLER, Jay, what's your beef, bud?

J. LENO: What's my beef?

CALLER: That's right.

KING: Do you have a beef today?

J. LENO: A beef today? Let me see. What is my beef today. My beef today. You know, this is actually not a real big beef, but it is annoying. This is something that happened to me the other day in the market. You know, people -- I know people that work in markets. This is a very hard job. This actually happened at Citizen Mart (ph) the other day.

And I always seem to get that rather dour faced woman. OK. You know, that kind of Margaret Hamilton-type. And I was buying a bunch of stuff, and this is absolutely true. She's ringing the things up there and I gave her the money and I told her, I said, "How you doing"?

And she goes, she doesn't say anything. And I give her the money. She gives me the money back. And I said, "Thank you. Thank you very much." She doesn't say anything and I just got annoyed. I said, "Well, don't say thanks." And this is what she said, she said, "It's on your receipt, sir."

I went, "Oh, you're right. Here it is right here at the bottom of the receipt. How stupid. What an idiot I am."

KING: Pittsburgh, hello.


J. LENO: Yes, sir.

CALLER: Good evening, sir. My question to you is, how do you avoid burning out doing over 300 shows a year?

And second of all, what's your favorite joke of the week?

J. LENO: What's my favorite joke of the week? This is not quite cable enough for that, sir.

How do you avoid burnout? I like it. It's a fun job. I mean, you work for yourself. You know, I'm not in the business where I manufacture like dioxin derivatives and people are getting cancer of the pancreas and I didn't sell it to those kids, I tell you, I'm in sales. I didn't make that stuff.

I mean, it's a fun job. You just, you go around, you tell jokes ...

KING: You do a lot of concerts, right?

J. LENO: Yeah, I do a lot of concerts. But, you see, I like live performing more than I like -- I do TV to get people to come to the live shows. The reason I ...

KING: That's your favorite.

J. LENO: Yeah. I mean, I like that best. I have no desire to direct or play Othello or something.

KING: Could you explain, before we break and take some calls, the way you dress.

J. LENO: Now, now, now, what is the ...

KING: No really. I mean, it's not exactly matched. The white -- I mean, it's a black jacket with white flecks, a blue shirt ...

J. LENO: Sure, sure.

KING: ... and a red tie with Zs and Cs on it.

J. LENO: Well, they wanted to check the color track on the camera.

KING: No, I mean, is this the way you always dress?

J. LENO: This is the way I usually dress.

KING: How do you explain that?

J. LENO: I don't know. This is kind of a Cleveland Vice kind of look, I guess.

KING: Cleveland Vice.

J. LENO: Cleveland Vice.


KING: By the time we spoke again, Leno had achieved a major milestone. In September of 1987 he was named permanent guest host for the legendary "Tonight Show."

One of his most popular segments was "Headlines." It was such a hit, in fact, that Leno turned it into a book.


KING: Do you cull them or are they culled for you?

J. LENO: Culled. Hang on, dictionary, dictionary.

KING: Gathered.

J. LENO: Oh, gathered. No, people send them in to "The Tonight Show." I had done a few on the show and then people from around the country would mail them in and we just put them all in this book.

KING: I mean, if you can just, I love -- this, see, now, this would be my pick.


J. LENO: Eight bagels ...

KING: Eight bagels ...

J. LENO: For $1.49. Limit three.

KING: Limit three.

J. LENO: Oh, here's a good one here. Here's one of my favorites. I think it's on the next page. Where'd it -- oh. It says six -- here, read it.


J. LENO: Here you go.

KING: 64-inch micro mini-blinds. $3.99 each. 23, 26, 27 inches wide. 64-inch long vinyl, sleek, half-inch micro mini-blinds offer greater privacy when closed ...

J. LENO: Breathtaking view when open.

KING: Breathtaking view when open.

J. LENO: Like if you live in alley, you open this, well you'll see the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, by the way. Breathtaking view when open.

I like this one. Free dinner with any Arab pest control spray.

KING: Yeah. Free dinner with any pest control job. Arab, termite and pest control.

Step into Joyce shoes. Genuine fake eel skin.

J. LENO: That's right.

KING: Fort Davis is in North Carolina. Hello. Michigan, I'm sorry. Fort Davis, Michigan. Hello.

CALLER: Hello, Jay?

J. LENO: How are you?

CALLER: Yeah, I enjoy you work. I was wondering if you read -- I read this story in, it was an AP wire story in "The Detroit Free Press and News" this morning. A woman had a four-year-old hamster and it was getting ready to die. So, the pet store said just put it in a paper bag and then stick it in the freezer over night to kill it.

So, she opened up the freezer the next morning and this hamster popped out. Survived overnight on frozen bagels and is just looking at her saying, "Why'd you do this to me"?

J. LENO: I think, proving once again, not everyone can do comedy, sir. As you can see, I'm not quite sure I ...

KING: The hamster story.

J. LENO: Oh, I thought it was going to be a frozen embryo joke.

KING: I didn't know where it was going.

J. LENO: That's a tough one, that -- did you do anything on that? Did you cover it?

KING: We've covered it.

J. LENO: See, it's tough enough, I think, growing up, finding out you've been adopted. But finding out you've been defrosted, you know, that's got to be, that's got to be a tough ...

KING: We'll be back with some more moments and more phone calls from Jay Leno with his interpreter.

J. LENO: Anyway, this hamster goes in the freezer ...

KING: Right. First, these words.

J. LENO: Anyway ...


J. LENO: Now, it says "Baby Onboard," but I don't see the little tyke down there anywhere. He's probably rolled under the seat.

It's an awful hot day and these windows are airtight. Every second counts. If only there was something. This'll be great.


Fortunately, this car is empty. You know, I've never been happier to be wrong about something in my life.




J. LENO: Let's see how you all feel in 30 years. This of course, this of course is "The Tonight Show." The one TV program Dan Quayle hates even more than Murphy Brown.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: In May of '92, Leno took over the reigns of "The Tonight Show," after beating out David Letterman as Johnny Carson's successor.

It wasn't long before he found out that Carson was literally a tough act to follow. Leno's first mistake, failing to mention Johnny during his first show. Then a scandal. He fired his long-time agent Helen Kushnik for allegedly warning potential guests not to appear on other shows.

And just four days after this August 1993 interview, the ratings race was on. David Letterman launched a competing show on CBS. Leno's first year as host was anything but funny.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KING: Where along the way, when you were sitting in for Johnny, we were on a couple of times, where along the way did you say, "I think I'd like to do this"?

J. LENO: Well, I think I always thought I'd like to do it.

KING: Really? When you first did it?

J. LENO: Yeah. Yeah, I think so. I mean, I think everybody does.

KING: Because you were such -- you were the personification of the stand-up comic. You loved the road.

J. LENO: I still like the road, yeah. I mean, it's fun. I go out on weekends.

KING: So, you wanted a set job every night, sitting down, talking to people, telling jokes?

J. LENO: You know, I think my great advantage is I've always been happy in any, whatever particular spot I was in. I was never one that was jealous. I mean, I started before Dave. Dave met me. We became friends. Then he rocketed by me. I never, I never got mad, because I always had fun.

KING: You went on his show a lot?

J. LENO: Many times. I would not have "The Tonight Show" if it was not for Dave. So, I can't say that I've -- you do what you do, you know? I'm happy doing what I -- I like write joke, tell joke, get check. That's sort of been my mantra, you know. And if the check gets a little bigger each time, well, that's OK.

KING: How do you think NBC handled this?

J. LENO: Well, you know, you can cry baby. I mean, you know, the only difference ...

KING: They kind of hung you awhile, didn't they? Let's see ...

J. LENO: So what? For this kind of money, you can hang me by my thumbs if you want. You know, they hang you and then they go, well, look, here's the check at the end of the week. That's not bad, I guess.

No, plus, you know, I think we're in a business where there are no private discussions. For example, in "The Tonight Show" booking meeting, I don't know how many times a name would came up and you'd say, "Oh, that persons is good, but you know, they don't have any new material. They don't have any new stories. I don't know if we want to do that."

I would not want that public, as I'm sure you do ...

KING: Sure. J. LENO: I mean, how many times do people tell me, "Oh, we just had them and, you know, they're not working on new material or whatever."

Nobody lied to me with the NBC situation. It was just a matter of private discussions were aired publicly.

KING: Is there going to be guest wars like the ...

J. LENO: I don't think so. No, I don't think so ...

KING: ... you go on my show, you can't go on his.

J. LENO: No, no.

KING: You don't have that rule?

J. LENO: No. No. There were problems when we started "The Tonight Show." There were problems with some of the shows of that. No. I mean, there are any number of times, some of the comedians, Larry Miller, have called and said, "Jay, "The Arsenio Hall" show called us." Larry, do it. You're a commodity. You're a comedian. Do it. Do it. Do us before if you want. Do us after.

Many times I've taken a guest after Arsenio, and many times I've taken them before.

KING: And you and Letterman aren't going to have a war?

J. LENO: No, no, no. I speak to them once a week, and we have fun.

KING: Oh, you do?

J. LENO: You know, I was in New York last Thursday doing promos. I went over to the theater and I was given the workmen five bucks to drop sandbags on people. You know, I mean, so we kind of kid around.

KING: In retrospect, should you have paid more of a tribute to Johnny on your first night?

J. LENO: Yes. Absolutely correct. That was another thing that was handled terribly wrong.

KING: You didn't gut feel it?

J. LENO: Well, you know what is odd? And this is as lame an explanation as you can give. But, there were some sort of hard feelings based on things people had done and what not, and at the time, you know, I said to myself, when I would follow -- if you're a comedian and you follow another comedian, the sign of a bad comedian, or one who doesn't know what he's doing, is one who goes, "How about that last guy? Wasn't he terrific"? and you are now riding on the applause and whatnot of the person behind you.

And I felt as if it was, I said, you know, I said, let me go a couple of weeks and then we'll -- once we're established, once we've kind of said, hey, we've got our feet on the ground, then thank him.

You know, when Johnny got the award with the president, we showed the clip and we thanked him and I saw him at the teacher's award. You know, he's a real gentleman and a class guy and the network did not handle things well and things on my end were not handled well ...

KING: So, if you had to do it over, you would have ...

J. LENO: I would do a lot of things completely different, yeah.

KING: Gillette, Wyoming for Jay Leno. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry and Jay.

J. LENO: Hi.

CALLER: Jay, I wanted to ask you, have you asked Johnny to be on the show? And, if so, what's been the response?

J. LENO: Oh, sure. You know, I think this, again, that's a tough -- not to speak for Johnny, but he's very good friends with David Letterman. He is very good friends with Chevy. He plays cards with Chevy. You know, everything is seen as politics. If you do, if you go on "The Tonight Show," is that a slap to Dave? If you go on Dave, is that a slap to "The Tonight Show"? If you go on Chevy, is that a -- you know, people sort of read into things ...

KING: You think something is going to happen, you know, where guest won't go on ...

J. LENO: No, no, no, no. But, I mean, his situation, I think, is different.

KING: Special.

J. LENO: You know, he's such a big guest. He is the guest. And I think it would sort of send shock waves, you know, it would look as if, oh, he's putting his stamp on this and not this as opposed to just, you know, stopping by.

But, I mean, it would be wonderful to have him on. Sure, I would love to do it.

KING: We'll be back with Jay Leno and we'll take your phone calls as well. This is LARRY KING LIVE in Los Angeles. Don't go away.


KING: Hey, Jay.

J. LENO: Hey, Larry. How are you?

KING: Jill Leoni (ph) sends her love ...

J. LENO: Oh, yeah, yeah. Say hi to them for me. How are you? KING: Thanks for doing this. We're going to have fun, I think.

J. LENO: Oh, yeah. It'll be good. You're right over there on Sunset, right? The same place?

KING: We're on the whole hour. We've been promoting the hell out of it.

J. LENO: We going to take some phone calls? Oh, man.

Hey, you guys. You got something to eat, Larry? There's some -- we have a real green room, here.

KING: I remember. Griffin's Green Room.

J. LENO: Go right in, there. Look all the food.

KING: Oh, man.

J. LENO: Look at all the Larry King food. Look at that, we got dancing girls and everything here, for you.

Ladies and gentlemen, a man just hanging around, Larry King.

KING: Hello!

J. LENO: Larry King is here!

KING: Just hanging around.

J. LENO: Of course, the most important part of the program, sadly, the most important part of the show, laughing at the monologue, ladies and gentlemen. The most important part.

Wait, here we go, we got the ...

KING: Where's your camera?

J. LENO: They went to get the camera. Larry, why don't you hit on her for a second.

KING: Where's the camera? I have to go ...

J. LENO: No, they're coming out. They're coming out in just a second.

KING: Where's the camera?

J. LENO: We'll be taking up a collection later to get Larry King a sport coat, ladies and gentlemen. He doesn't want to wear a jacket.

Remember, everyone, tell Larry King he looks very young. Tell Larry he looks young.

ANNOUNCER: And now, Jay Leno.






J. LENO: And for the first time, PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat was officially elected President of the Palestinian Authority. You see the PLO victory party, you see it on the news tonight? Have we got that footage?


KING: Jay Leno is our guest. How important is the monologue?

J. LENO: Oh, I think the monologue is 90 percent of the show.

KING: In other words, if it gets off slow the show will follow it?

J. LENO: Well, not any one monologue, but, you know, big stars are great. Certainly, big stars help shows tremendously. But there aren't that many big stars. The real key to doing a show, and if you watch how they track these things, you know, your rating is here. If you have a big star, you go up a little bit. If you don't have any big stars, you come back to here again.

The people that are in trouble are the ones that have big stars and go up and then no stars and go right down.

KING: Disappear.

J. LENO: You know, people have to like you. I mean, I think that's one of the great strengths of David Letterman. When he did "Late Night" in New York, it was hard to get guests. But people like Dave. They like his comedy, and the guests were secondary.

KING: So, we turn on you to watch you for that ...

J. LENO: Well, I mean, I'd like to think that. I mean, I did. When I'd watch the tonight show, I want to hear Johnny Carson's monologue. I want to hear what he said.

KING: Do you get ratings oriented in this kind of thing? Do you grab tomorrows sheet to see how you did last night?

J. LENO: Most people will lie and say no, but yes. I call at about 7:00 in the morning and see what do we like. What do people like, what ...

KING: Does it effect you?

J. LENO: Oh, sure. I think you're lying if you say it doesn't KING: What do you go, 15 minutes by 15 minutes?

J. LENO: Well, they give this breakdown, and you learn what they like. For example, monologue is the strongest part of the show. Comedy is what people like, that's what it tells you.

KING: Alright, we'll go back to the phones.

And we go to Bob from Kansas. Hello.


KING: Yeah, Bob. Hi.

DOLE: Jay, one thing I've learned about Larry. He likes it when his guests announce their political intentions on his show. So, if you want to tell him tonight you'll be my running mate, go right ahead.

KING: It's Bob Dole.

J. LENO: Oh, it's Bob Dole. It is Bob Dole. He's one of my best guests. How are you, sir?

DOLE: Doing fine.

J. LENO: Oh, that's great. You're up in -- I heard you were doing a trial run up in New Hampshire, making practice denials around the state?

DOLE: Right. We had a good time up there.

KING: Senator, is it true now, tonight, are you going on record as to if you do run, you are going to offer it to Leno? It'll be an easy button. Dole/Leno.

DOLE: Right. I need an older person on the ticket with me, yes.

KING: Someone with gray hair.

DOLE: Yes. Someone with gray hair.

J. LENO: Well, see now, Bob will be 73 when he runs, so he'll get the young Republican vote.

DOLE: That's right. Have a great time. Good luck.

KING: Bob, do you enjoy doing Jay's show?

DOLE: Oh, I had a great time. It's pretty fast, though. You know, you're in and out of there in about five minutes.

J. LENO: Oh, no. He was, he was terrific. You know, we had a joke where I did these Clinton jokes and I said, "Boy, these Clinton jokes are mean? Who wrote these"? and we cut to Mr. Dole holding the cue card and it was very funny.

KING: He's a great sport.

J. LENO: Oh, a good sport, and a fine senator.

KING: Thank you, Bob from Kansas.

DOLE: Thank you.

KING: Hey, everybody calls this show.

J. LENO: There you go.

KING: They love you, Jay. Now you got offered ...

J. LENO: I'm flattered. Yeah. That's pretty neat. That's pretty neat.

KING: You got offered a vice presidential.

J. LENO: I was talking about it the other night. You have Clinton and Gore, we can have Dole and Igor. That would be the key.


KING: When we come back, how Leno pulled ahead in the late night battle.


J. LENO: There was I time, I guess, was it '88, maybe you were thinking of getting out or retiring?

DOLE: Well, I thought about retiring.

J. LENO: Yeah.

DOLE: But then I thought about not retiring.

J. LENO: Yeah.

DOLE: And then you have a choice of either going to work or staying in politics.

J. LENO: Yeah.




J. LENO: Let me start with question No. 1: What the hell were you thinking?

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Comic nemesis David Letterman was whipping Leno in the ratings battle after Letterman went to CBS in '93.

But three years later, Leno scored the first interview with Hugh Grant after Grant's reported liaison with a prostitute. After that, the ratings tide began to turn.


KING: Has all this rating thing, the increase, the down then the up, surprised you?

J. LENO: Well, yes and no. I mean ...

KING: For awhile, Letterman was owning the show, publicity-wise and otherwise, right?

J. LENO: Well, you know the thing you have to understand about this kind of business, it's a bit like Ford and Chrysler. Both are extremely successful. Both get paid a lot of money, probably more than we're worth. And if somebody happens to sell a few more cars in one month, well, they are the champ. They are the No. 1 car.

You know, America doesn't seem to like No. 2. There is only No. 1. And if you happen to pull ahead a little bit, oh, suddenly there's the big hoopla. It doesn't really change that much for me.

I mean, I'm glad that I see changes in the show that reflect in the ratings. So, I feel real good about that.

KING: But if they pull ahead, usually one will say, you know, we made that wagon. And that wagon with the new fins works. OK.

J. LENO: Right. Right. Right.

KING: What works?

J. LENO: With the new fins. I can the last time you bought a car, Larry.


J. LENO: Yeah, the new fins for 1959.

KING: Alright. What works for Leno?

J. LENO: Well, I think putting a lot more comedy in the show. Being a lot looser. Getting in the new studio.

KING: That was big, wasn't it?

J. LENO: Yeah, you know. I mean, I've told this story, but I was all, when I started, Johnny ended on Friday, we started on Monday. And I was doing the show exactly the way that it had always been done. Not that there was anything wrong with that, that was perfect for Johnny. But obviously, I'm not Johnny, as most of the critics will tell you, and you can't copy that. You've got to do your own format.

I do not come from a broadcasting background. I cam from a, you know, a stand-up comedy background. So, the first time we went to New York, I liked the intimacy of the set and I said, when we get back let's build a set more like a night club. I want to be able to walk right into the crowd, slap a guy around if I have to, shake hands, I mean, have the people right there. I never liked that distance of standing there with the lights in your eyes and hearing laughs and not seeing the faces.

Once we did that, that really set the groundwork for making it real loose.

KING: And that effected the show in the way I view it at home?

J. LENO: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

KING: Even though it's still you on camera?

J. LENO: Yeah, it really changed it. Plus, you have to learn how to do this. It's as simple as that. You know, obviously, like Conan O'Brien, his tremendous growth there. Conan was nervous and, you know, wasn't quite sure the first week. And now he does a terrific show. Critics have turned around with him as well and saying, "Oh, he's very funny."

KING: Is the show first, Jay, an entertainment show?

J. LENO: Yeah, it probably, it's probably a comedy/variety show now more that it's a talk show.

KING: Informational is third then, right?

J. LENO: I think so. I mean, there are other shows, Larry King, Larry King, where people can go on ...

KING: Oh, that's a big one.

J. LENO: Yeah, but no. In the old days, you had "The Tonight Show" if you had something to sell. And the radio and whatnot, you know. Now, but sometimes, hopefully you get a guest first. If you don't, they've told the story here or other shows or "Entertainment Tonight" or whatever. So, you try to do other things. You try to do more comedy.

KING: Having interviewed you both on quite a few occasions ...

J. LENO: Yes.

KING: ... it's really interesting, because the two of you are friends.

J. LENO: Yeah.

KING: You've never declared any public enemy thing.

J. LENO: No.

KING: One got the job and one went over here, one went over there. You're on against each other. Is that weird?

J. LENO: No. I don't think it's weird at all.

KING: I mean, you don't think -- has the press tried to force you to dislike each other?

J. LENO: I think they do.

KING: Because David says to me he likes you very much. He wants to beat you every night, but he likes you very much.

J. LENO: Yeah. But that's OK. I mean, if you and I are playing a sports game, of course I'm going to want to beat you. Why wouldn't I? I mean, that's why you play the game.

But I admire him. See, I would be mad, and I would dislike him, if I thought the show was cheap shots, stupid sex jokes, I mean, things that I don't like, you know, things that I perceive as not real comedy, just cheap shots.

But he does a great show. And I think we do a very good show, too. And if we win some nights, I go, "Hey, look, we beat a guy who I think is real good" and "Well, we lost to a guy I think is real good." Whatever it may be.

So, that makes it easier to take. But yeah, I don't think you'll ever hear him say anything bad about me or me say anything bad about him.

KING: We are going to take a break. We'll be back with more of Jay Leno. And, by the way, Billy Tuttle, our favorite hamburger joint owner, takes us to this break. Watch.


J. LENO: Now, fat free might be alright, but here's the best deal. Free fat, take a look at that there. Bet you want a little bite of that. Plenty more where that came from.





J. LENO: Bush is tough. He is a tough guy. Especially with hecklers. Well, I'll show you yesterday on the show. You'll see how we dealt with it.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We need more scrapers and painters and doers. J. LENO: When was ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think of the Democrat's policy of bombing and sanctions that kill ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry, you can't ask that question sir.






KING: It's not just doing political jokes. You're really into politics.

J. LENO: I enjoy it.

KING: You're the talk of Atlanta. You called CNN. Tell them what you do.

J. LENO: Actually, I always call CNN about, let me see ...

KING: Once a week?

J. LENO: If it's 2:00, 3:00 in the morning my time, what is it, 5:00 or 6:00 that time. Just to double check a ...

KING: You're up at 3:00 in the morning.

J. LENO: Yeah, to see if somebody -- to check a quote, you know.

KING: You're doing it for the next night, then?

J. LENO: Yeah, for the next night we're doing them.

KING: You're writing stuff at 3:00 in the morning?

J. LENO: That's when we put the monologue together. Sure, sure. Because you need it for the next day. What I do is, I try to have half the monologue done by, in the morning, so when I come in I can then add to it throughout.

KING: OK. So, you'll call CNN, like, what? Hello, CNN Atlanta?

J. LENO: Well, I'll ask, I'll say, what happened today with ...

KING: Do you tell them who you are?

J. LENO: Yeah. With Bob Dole, the disc -- what was the exact quote? Did Steve Forbes actually do this? Did somebody not turn in their tax records? Whatever it may be. Just to make sure the joke is fair, you know.

KING: Now, I trust they are cooperative with you?

J. LENO: Oh, yeah, they're very good, actually. Emily and the whole gang.

KING: Emily. One might ask the question, why don't you call NBC news?

J. LENO: Well, there's nobody up. I'm sorry, I don't know where to call.

KING: There's nobody there.

J. LENO: Well, it just kind of rings, "Security," "Yeah, this is Jay Leno. I'm sorry is Jim Reynolds on the phone." It's just easier. I know them at CNN.

KING: Remember that great security story where the guy went right through, he was going to kill you? Some crazy guy ...

J. LENO: No, that was the guy that had the knife, yeah.

KING: Guy had a knife and the security guys waved him through.

J. LENO: Well, for some people, the oldest people in any building always seem to be in security. I don't quite understand that, you know. And there was this old man, he'd sit there. I won't say his name, but he's sitting there one day and this, just, a crazy looking woman comes in with a backpack. I mean, the minute you walk in, it's got Hinkley written all over it, you know.

And she goes, "Where is Johnny Carson's dressing room"? I mean, literally, "Where is Johnny Carson's dressing room"? like this.

The guys goes, "Oh, right down there, young lady." This guys was 88 years old. He's security, he's 88. "Right down there, at the bottom of the -- go down the stairs, it's the dressing room with no name on it. The last one on the hall," you know, some -- I don't know.

So, you're standing there and someone goes, "Jay, come here." I go, "What"? "Is Johnny in there"? Now, Johnny is not in the building at the time and there's this woman standing like this, with a big knife, standing by the door, just like a crazy person.

We go, "Hey, hey, security"! and, of course, you know, security is 88 years old. So, then the Burbank police came and took her away and that was the end of that.


KING: Leno came back in 1996 to talk about his book, "Leading With My Chin," a collection of, you guessed it, funny stories harking back to his childhood.


KING: Were you a funny kind?

J. LENO: Yeah, I think so.

KING: I mean, like would you, would you be the joke-teller in high school?

J. LENO: Yeah, I mean, I was all of that, but it was not, you know, when I go back to my old high school now the teacher's go, "Oh, we always knew Jay would be a" ...

No, they didn't. You know, it was always quite down. You know, there was a lot of that going on and get out of the room. Because I never thought about being a comedian professionally, I just assumed ...

KING: What did you want to be when you were, like, in high school?

J. LENO: I mean, I wanted to do that, but I remember there was a lady up the street and, you know, comedy is one of those rare professions that people who know nothing about it feel obligated to give you free advice. And I always remember this neighbor lady of ours said to my mother, "You know, you can't be a comedian unless your father was a comedian. When you get out there, if your father wasn't a comedian, you can't get in the comedian union."

You know, and this woman told me that and I said, "Well, alright. I'll do something else."

KING: The comedian union.

J. LENO: The comedian union. If your father wasn't one, you can't be one.

KING: Who had the chin, mom or dad?

J. LENO: I guess that's from the Scotch side of the family. Yeah, that would probably be more of the Scotch side, my mom. My mom was Scottish. My father was Italian. Which is a wonderful area for comedy as a kid, because the two sides were ...

KING: What was that like?

J. LENO: Well, my father's name was Angelo and the Scottish say, "You know, your father, Angus." They never quite understood, it's not Angus, it's Angelo.

And whenever we'd go to family functions, the lines would be divided. You know, the Italians would be loud and making a lot of food and the Scotch side, "Look at the waste, Jamie, the waste. Look how many meatballs they make for 12 people, Jamie. The waste."

You know, and, as a kid, your sort of -- because you love both sides, and each side was sort of, not bad, but, you know, just funny. When I would go to my Aunt Nettie's (ph) house, her idea of a treat was a scone and a warm Coca-Cola. She would keep Coca-Colas in the cupboard, and they always called it Coca-Cola, it was never a Coke. And she'd, all keep it in the cupboard because, you know, it cost money to run that refrigerator.

So, she would pour me a Coke ...

KING: Warm Coke.

J. LENO: You know, kind of, and then you'd get that, and here's a stale biscuit. And then you'd go to my Uncle Frank's house. And he would make a five gallon pot of sauce with meatballs the size of softballs, you know, huge ...

KING: How did that marriage work out, though?

J. LENO: Wonderful. A wonderful marriage.

KING: We just saw a picture of them. They really, they had a great...

J. LENO: They had a wonderful marriage. They were married for 57 years and my wife and I got married on their same wedding day because it seemed to work for them. And they're a wonderful couple. They're the funniest people I ever knew.

My mom was always, "Never call attention to yourself. Never stand out in a crowd, Jamie. Always be quite and sit still." Whereas, my father was Italian and, "What are you telling the boy that, boy, get out there."

So, I always in the middle.

KING: Is that your wedding there that we're seeing now?

J. LENO: Yeah, yeah. That's Mavis and I, yeah.

KING: How did you meet Mave?

J. LENO: I met Mave, I was on stage at The Comedy Store. I saw her in the audience.

KING: In L.A.?

J. LENO: In L.A. And assuming, sooner or later, most women have to go to the bathroom, as soon as I got off stage I ran and just stood by the ladies room until eventually she came by.

KING: How did you open the bit? I've been noticing you from the stage?

J. LENO: No, I just said, "Oh, hi, I just saw you," "Oh, really, you saw my act. Well, thank you."

I mean, if a woman laughs at your act, that's pretty much all a comedian needs.

KING: Was it good reference (ph), though, I mean, was yours a get-go, let's-go romance?

J. LENO: Yeah ...

KING: Come on, Jay, tell us. Tell us the inside story.

J. LENO: Sure. I think it was. I mean, as soon as I saw her, I kind of figured, well, this looks good, she'll stay in line. But she denies the fact that I told my friend three days after we met, "Well, I'm probably going to marry that girl."

KING: But you did.

J. LENO: She says no. But I did.

KING: What's the story of McDonald's in your life?

J. LENO: Actually, McDonald's is where I got my first start. I won a talent show. I was working at a McDonald's in Andover ...

KING: You were a kid? Behind the counter?

J. LENO: Yeah. I was a kid behind the counter.

KING: The kind that stand there and say ...

J. LENO: Yeah, we used to give away bags of free food, you know, friends would come in and they'd go, "Jay give me 12 burgers, 19 fries and 10 Cokes." And I'd go, "OK, that'll be a quarter."

And then the manager came back one day and said, "You know, we lost $25,000 last month. What's going on"? Because every kid was giving away food, you know, I thought I was the only one. No, "Hi there, guys. That'll be a nickel." Pushing tons of foods out, you know.

So, anyway, they had one of these regional talent shows. And he said, "Leno, you're always making jokes. I want you to do something for the talent show."

KING: So, you entered backed by McDonald's? Was it a McDonald's talent show?

J. LENO: So, that was the birth point of my -- well, it was for all the staff. It was the McDonald employees competing against one another.

KING: What was it like working there?

J. LENO: I loved working at McDonald's, actually. I was very impressed with it. Because I had had, you know, other restaurant jobs. And, although I do a lot of McDonald's jokes, I was always impressed with the operation.

KING: How they do it?

J. LENO: Yeah, how clean it is and how fresh everything is. Because I used to be, you know what a meat striper is?


J. LENO: I used to work at a, well, like at Howard Johnson's, they would give you, like, a frozen patty, and then the guy would give you what they called grill chalk. And you take these frozen patties and draw black lines on them to look like they were grilled. Then you like throw them in a microwave or something and people go, "This take terrible, but at least it's charbroiled."

KING: You're revealing one of the great trade secrets.

J. LENO: Yeah, just sit there with grill chalk. We used to have steak spray. You know what that is?


J. LENO: Oh, steak spray is great. It comes in a big industrial can, like there's an aerosol. And you spray it on the radiators and then turn the radiator up to about 100 degrees and people go, "Nice smelling steak."

It was just -- I used it as deodorant. You walk in, people are going, "Hey, you smell delicious." You go, "That's right. I'm a steak.


KING: Don't go away. More with Jay Leno in a moment.


DOLLY PARTON: Hi, Jay. My question is, do you think that a woman should ever consider having breast reduction surgery?

J. LENO: Do I think a woman should get breast reduction surgery? You know, I think two is the right number, OK. I mean, any more than that, or any less, I mean who ...





KING: New feature tonight on LARRY KING LIVE, "Headlines of the Week."

Scientists to kill ducks to see why they're dying. Sick. We even have a birth announcement. Look at this. Born to Claudia and Spencer Gordon on November 8th, Madison Square Gordon. Sick. J. LENO: Larry?

KING: Yes?

J. LENO: I'm sorry ...

KING: Wait a minute.

J. LENO: Those are my headlines. I'm on the air.

KING: They brought this to me. They told me do this.

J. LENO: They delivered them to the wrong studio.

KING: This is a live show.

J. LENO: I know, I know. Look, I do headlines.

KING: OK, we'll take them.

J. LENO: You got a call, there's a call coming in.

KING: I'll take it, OK. Albuquerque, hello.

Albuquerque? The calls gone too.


KING: Do you wish to do something else?

J. LENO: No, no. I'm doing exactly what I want to do.

KING: You want to do "The Tonight Show" forever?

J. LENO: Well, until they go ...

KING: Will that come some day?

J. LENO: Oh, sure. I think it has to come.

KING: It always comes, right?

J. LENO: Oh, yeah. It always comes. I mean, yeah, in fact ...

KING: Jay?

J. LENO: Some people are here for you.

KING: Jay, could we see you a minute.

J. LENO: I mean, yeah, eventually that happens.

KING: That will happen?

J. LENO: That's fine. That's fine. I mean, I enjoy it. It's more fun that I've ever had in show business. The whole process is fun.

You know, I'll tell you that story, I don't know if I told you, but it's in the book about the -- did I tell you about the Gay Pride parade?

One day, my wife and I, I've got this '57 Buick Roadmaster. And we always used to go down to this place, Hard Times Pizza, in West Hollywood, to get a slice of pizza.

So, we're driving down there and my wife goes, look at this, there's lines on both sides, the street is closed. My wife said, "It's Gay Pride Day. The Gay Pride parade is going on. We can't cross Santa Monica to get to the pizza place. Let's go back."

I said, "Oh," and then I see this cop go (WHISTLE), "Come on, come on." I said, "See that honey, "The Tonight Show" opens a few doors. You didn't know you were with a big star."

The cop goes, "Come on, come on." And he waves me in and he says, "Come on down here, turn around." And I realize, I'm now behind a '57 Chevy that's got four big drag queens on it going like this. And I realize, the cop didn't recognize me. He saw the old car and thought we were part of the Gay Pride parade.

So, now, I can't get out of the Gay Pride parade. I'm going down, I'm driving down Santa Monica, and these guys are going, "Jay, thanks for coming out man. You're helping us." "No problem." And this is the most ridiculous -- and my wife is laughing and I go, "Honey, you're a lesbian." "My wife is also a lesbian, thank you, we're coming out." And people are going, "Thanks, Jay. We appreciate it." "Thank you, guys."

I mean, it was hysterical. For three miles I couldn't get out of the parade.

KING: Cucamonga, California. Hello.

CALLER: Yes, good evening, gentlemen.


J. LENO: Hi.

CALLER: Hi there. Mr. Leno?

J. LENO: Yes?

CALLER: On a scale from, oh, say one to ten, how nervous were you on your fist night when you replaced Johnny Carson?

J. LENO: Actually, I was more nervous the first night I did "The Tonight Show," because your first "Tonight Show" ...

KING: As a substitute host.

J. LENO: No, no, the first night I did it. KING: As a guest. Yes.

J. LENO: Yeah. Your first "Tonight Show" is kind of like your first girlfriend. You know, it's over very quick, you're not very good at it and you just want to do it again. You know what I mean? That kind of situation.

By the time you reach guest host position, you've been on enough to know, well, maybe this'll work out OK. So, I wasn't really nervous the first guest hosting job. I was much more nervous the first show.

And in the same vein, I don't really get nervous. You know, I get more nervous if I'm in a situation where I don't know what I'm supposed to do. Like, on "The Tonight Show," I know what I'm supposed to do.

I remember once, the first time I was asked to do something in the White House. They said, it was the Correspondent's Dinner for Ronald Reagan. So, I called up a couple of people in the White House said, "Oh, just roast him. Have a ball. Nail him." And the other half said, "You know, I wouldn't really go near anything like that. Just, you know, it's very conservative. Don't be impolite. Don't be" ...

You know, I didn't know which, I didn't know whether my jokes would be too, not inside, but to obvious to these people, because they're all insiders. My jokes seem like the ones that were going -- I mean, I just didn't know which way to go.

KING: What did you do?

J. LENO: Well, I kind of played it safe and I did more generic things about growing up and my parents and a few political jokes to feel it out. The second and third time I did it, I was much more attuned to the audience, but that first time I was very nervous, because I said, "Well, I don't want to go in and be disrespectful to the president," but I didn't know whether, oh, am I wimp now. Are they expect me to, you know, to hammer the guy?

KING: By the way, what is your assessment of the current political race?

J. LENO: Oh, it's just -- you know, it's like I say, it's a horse race. It's a horse race. Perot is the nag, Dole is ready for the glue factor and Clinton is out to stud. That's pretty much my -- it's a horse race.

KING: Is it over, in your opinion?

J. LENO: Oh, well, it's never really over, I guess, but it's fascinating to watch. I mean, the apathy is the thing I find just fascinating. People just seem fed up by it.

KING: You showed Gore's picture to 10 people?

J. LENO: Yeah. That thing we did, 6 out of 10 people did not identify the vice president. One woman thought Mount Rushmore was a natural rock formation. You know, the rain just happened to erode in the shape of Teddy Roosevelt.

You know, and these are not -- I'm not talking about crazy people on the street. These are people that look, they've got a gold card and they drive an automobile.

KING: The book is "Leading With My Chin," it's from Harper Collins. We'll be back with Jay Leno in a few moments, but first, let's take a look at Jay's efforts to keep the American people informed about their leaders.


J. LENO: And that is?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's our vice president at the moment.

J. LENO: His name is?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's, I -- gone. Oh, man. My dad would kill me if I didn't know this.

J. LENO: Yeah, it's a tricky one because he's the current vice president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know. Clinton and ...

J. LENO: Clinton and -- I am sorry. Al Gore?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God. Don't air that one.





KING: OK, Jay. You were at the White House with President Bush, were you not?

J. LENO: Yeah. I was there with Bush and Clinton and Reagan. Yeah, I've met them all, actually, it's kind of -- you were talking about the story in the book about the money.

KING: Yeah. Tell them the story.

J. LENO: Well, this is a really odd story.

KING: There's a picture, by the way, of you and the President.

J. LENO: Well, what it was, I went to Washington to do the Correspondent's Dinner. And before I left, I was talking to this old guy who had this motorcycle I've been trying to buy for a long time. And finally, the guys says, "Well, I'll sell it to you, but I want $18,000 cash. Don't want any of those cashier's checks, don't want any paper or any credit card. Cash, cash, cash."

So, I went to the bank and I got the cash, you know, and I had it in my bag and I'm guarding it with my life. And I check into the hotel right across from the White House -- what is that, the famous one?

KING: The Hay-Adams.

J. LENO: Yeah, with the lobby, the thing with the word lobbyism. I'm staying in that hotel. First, my phone rings. Ring. "Yeah, hello"?

"Jay Leno"? "Yes." "I'm calling for Salman Rushdie." "Salman Rushdie"? "Yes, he wishes to be on your program."

I said, "Well, listen, can he call my office"? "No, it is too dangerous."

I said, "Are you sure this is Salman" ...

"Yes it is."

And then the guy hangs up and I go, what? Fine. Ten minutes later, ring. "White House, calling for Jay Leno." "Alright, who is it"? "It's the President." "Alright, put him through. Hello"?

"Jay, George Bush," "Yeah, how you say"?

And then I start talking and realize, oh, it really is him, you know. And I say, "Oh, I'm sorry, sir, I've been getting prank calls." He goes, "Oh, that's OK. I understand."

He says, "Can you come over this afternoon for lunch"? I said, "Oh, I'd love to. I'm doing the White House Correspondent's Dinner but then I've got to fly right back to Los Angeles. I've got to be back by 5:00." I said, "I'm very flattered," and he says, "Oh, well what are you doing right now"?

I said, this is 9:00 in the morning. I said, "Nothing." "Why don't you come over and have a glass of orange juice"?

I said, "Gee, wow, yes, sir. Thank you. I'll be right over." So I'm going to go see the president, I put on, you know, I'm think, well, what am I going to do with this $18,000? I don't want to leave it here because the maids, even if you do put the "Do Not Disturb," you know, as they come in, they go, "Hello." You know, so I said, so I called the desk and I said, "Do you have any duct tape"?

And the guys said -- he gave me a roll of duct tape. So, I thought, I'll take the 18 grand and just put it in little bundles and I taped it to my chest. And I said, there. Look like I'm not carrying any money, perfect.

I walk over to the White house and (KNOCKING), you know, well, you don't really knock on the door I guess, but I get there and the security guys goes, "Yes, Jay Leno to see the President." "Oh, yes. Come in, Mr. Leno."

He goes, "Oh, you got to walk through the security detector." "No problem," walk right through, nothing goes off. "Thank you, sir."

Now, I get up to the White House, a guy goes, "Oh, you got a second one to go through." I said, "Yeah, OK," and he goes, "Hey, what's that? What have you got under your shirt there"?

And I said, "Oh," I said, "Well, look," I said, "I'm carrying this -- I bought this motorcycle from this guy and he wanted cash" ...

And I open the shirt to show him the money. He goes, "OK. Go ahead, go ahead, go ahead." I said, "Well, I" ...

"Go on, go on." "Alright," and I button my shirt back up and I go in to meet the President and have my picture taken. Very nice. I have my glass of orange juice. It's very exciting.

As I'm walking out again, you know, I said to the guy, "Gee, listen, I don't want you to think" ...

"Go ahead, sir," he just turns away and says, "Just go on sir, thank you."

And I said, "Really, I'm not making some illegal Iran contra payment or anything."

"Go ahead, sir, thank you very much." And I'm, "Alright, good- bye, good-bye." Odd.

KING: He was afraid that you had some ...

J. LENO: I don't know what they thought!


KING: More with Jay Leno, right after this.


J. LENO: Here you go. Researchers suggest weight loss most helpful for those who are overweight.




KING: My latest interview with Jay Leno took place in 1998. He was joined by his wife, Mavis, to talk about the plight of women in Afghanistan. Up until this interview, Leno's humor had always been the subject. And Mavis, a bit of a mystery.


KING: Whenever we ask, you said that's my ...

J. LENO: I never said that's my private -- I always answer ...

KING: No, I had no idea that Mavis was an activist or involved in things like -- we had no idea of that. You never brought it up.

J. LENO: You were always more interested in the sexual aspects.

KING: Well, what was that like?

J. LENO: Well, you know. Hey, paid her 100 grand, didn't I?

KING: How long are you two married?

MAVIS LENO: It'll be ...

J. LENO: 18 years.

M. LENO: It'll be 19 yeas this ...

J. LENO: No, 18 years.

M. LENO: Yeah, 18 years, oops.

KING: Why does it, apparently (ph), work?

J. LENO: Why?

KING: Yeah. In an age when it's hard to work ...

J. LENO: Yeah.

KING: ... why does it work? Keep it up, Leno. Why does it work? Finally, I'm happy. You begrudge me, I can't stand it.

J. LENO: Why does it work? I don't know. We have a mutual respect for each other. We get along. And I think we're complete opposites. I think that's why it works. She's the smart one. I'm the dumb one. And it ...

M. LENO: That is not true ...


KING: He's a workaholic, isn't he?

M. LENO: Yes, he is a workaholic.

KING: Doesn't like vacations?

M. LENO: No, he hates foreign travel. I love it. I'm an introvert, he's an extrovert.

KING: Gets in early. J. LENO: And that's why it works.

M. LENO: But, we have absolutely common, identical, emotional outlooks on things. What I mean and what he means by love or by honesty or by bad or good, absolutely the same. And I believe that's why it works.

J. LENO: See, I don't know what she knows. And she doesn't know what I know. So, consequently ...

KING: The focus.

J. LENO: When the car breaks down, I can fix it, but I can't read a map. So, I can physically get us there, but she knows where we're going. So, it works out.

KING: No children?

M. LENO: No.

J. LENO: No.

KING: Did you want children?

J. LENO: No, we're not particularly interested in kids.

M. LENO: No, you know ...

J. LENO: We're on the road all the time.

M. LENO: Yeah. We would have, it would have been very difficult ...

J. LENO: And this way we can travel as boyfriend and girlfriend ...

M. LENO: ... for us to have a life together in the first 10 years ...

J. LENO: ... and be selfish.

KING: Did you go with him when he did all those, Albany, Schenectady ...

M. LENO: Oh, yeah.

J. LENO: Yeah, yeah.

M. LENO: Everywhere. Yeah, everywhere. I love to travel and I love his company.

KING: Some wives sit and watch their husbands who are comics and go -- do you laugh?

M. LENO: Oh, yeah.

J. LENO: I mean, it's not like -- I don't go to bed wearing a flower, "Honey"! I mean, you can't.

KING: Do you test material on her?

J. LENO: Yes, I will try a joke. Not every joke. But sometimes I'll say, "Is this joke too crude"? or "Is this too stupid"? or "What do you think of this"? or "From a woman's point-of-view, does this sound like we're putting women down, or is it a funny joke"? Or if it's about sex, or if it's sex ...

KING: What do you think about what's happened to your husband? This whole career thing?

M. LENO: Oh, it's wonderful. It's absolutely wonderful. It's everything he deserved.

KING: What do you think of his fascination with automobiles?

M. LENO: It's fine with me.

J. LENO: Hey, better than hookers.


M. LENO: Well, that for sure, is fine with me. Oh, no. I mean, he's loved cars and bikes since the day I met him ...

KING: How many do you have, total?

M. LENO: ... and long before. So, that's fine.

KING: Total, how many?

J. LENO: Well, I got about 50 cars, about 40 bikes or so, but ...

KING: How do you make the choice what you drive in every night?

J. LENO: You know, I'm sure there are people that have bigger problems in the world.

KING: But, it's just a question.

J. LENO: I mean, that's why God is going to go, "You know, you completely wasted your life on these stupid cars and motorcycles" ...

KING: It's just a question, Jay. It ain't ...

J. LENO: ... "Now you're going to burn in hell. Alright. I'm going to try and make up for it.

KING: It ain't brain surgery. What do you drive in? That's all I'm asking? People like these things.

J. LENO: Whatever battery is not dead. I enjoy my old cars, and just whatever I haven't ridden in awhile, driven in awhile.

KING: What's your hobby?

M. LENO: I'm an avid, avid book collector, and ...

KING: Rare books? Old books?

M. LENO: Rare books, old books, mostly English literature as opposed to American literature.

KING: Smart girl.

J. LENO: That's what I mean, see, we're opposites. That's why it works.

KING: Did you ever worry about him when you didn't go with him on the road? All that temptation? All those fiery eyes?

M. LENO: You know ...

J. LENO: You know, unless the girl had car parts -- I always remember that, you remember that wonderful thing, I always remember, with Dan Quayle. Remember, very early on in the campaign, Dan Quayle was on a golfing trip and there was some woman who was supposedly some sexy vixen was staying in the room with them or something and they called Mrs. Quayle and she said, "You know, if you get my husband to go out with her and stop playing golf, I will pay you."


KING: Hope you enjoyed this look back at our interviews with Jay Leno. Thanks for joining us. Tomorrow night, Nancy Reagan commemorates her husband's 90th birthday. Good night.



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