Setting the record straight. Jay Leno addressed speculation that he had a hand in ending Conan O’Brien’s short-lived stint as host of The Tonight Show.
“It doesn’t work that way. You try and do the best you can, and it didn’t work,” Leno, 72, said during a Sunday, July 31, appearance on Bill Maher’s “Club Random” podcast. The New York native hosted the iconic talk show from 1992 to 2009 and again from 2010 to 2014, after the 59-year-old Conan host’s departure. He told Maher, 66, that he never did anything to “deliberately sabotage” his successor.
Although Leno has no regrets when it comes to O’Brien, he did offer his condolences to Jimmy Kimmel during the interview. When the Jay Leno’s Garage host was getting ready to leave The Tonight Show in 2014, he considered moving to ABC, which would have pushed Jimmy Kimmel Live! to a later time slot. He gave the 54-year-old Man Show alum a heads-up about the potential change but never followed up when it didn’t pan out.
“I suppose I should have called Jimmy and explained to him again, but I didn’t,” the Television Hall of Famer said. “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 apologize to him for that.”
Kimmel addressed the drama between the two Tonight Show alums while congratulating O’Brien for wrapping his final episode of TBS’ Conan in June 2021.
“Here’s to Conan and Andy Richter and everybody involved with that show,” he said during a late-night monologue. “We look forward to whatever you have planned next at HBO Max. And I also want to say, congratulations to Jay Leno for his new time slot at TBS.”
O’Brien has often taken the high road when asked about the Leno drama. During a May 2017 episode of Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen, the Harvard alum was asked what he’d do if he ran into the You Bet Your Life host on a plane.
“I’m watching a movie and my headphones are on and I don’t think we ever actually talk,” he told host Andy Cohen, noting that he would be watching The Goonies. “I’m so happy that I don’t see who’s next to me, and I miss a glorious chance to talk to that wonderful fellow.”
After Leno’s last episode of The Tonight Show aired in February 2014, Jimmy Fallon took over the hosting gig.