Jay Leno’s down-to-earth persona and topical humor have helped make him one of the most successful and recognizable personalities in the show business. Jay Leno began his entertainment career in the 1970’s touring the country as a stand-up comedians and sometimes booking as many as 300 gigs annually. One of these gigs was Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert.
On September 28th, 1976, Jay Leno appeared live on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. That night a very young Jay Leno, who was wearing a brown leather vest with a very hip Panama hat performed one of his early stand-up performances and told jokes about American life, TV news, car commercials and college life in Boston. Rather than watching from backstage, Don Kirshner was in the public that night with family and friends. During Jay Leno’s performance the cameras caught candid shots of Kirshner enjoying Leno’s act.
Jay Leno’s Rock Concert performance helped boost his growing popularity. After appearing on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, Leno’s career continued its meteoric ascent.
His frequent gigs on popular nightclubs and TV shows soon led to multiple appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. By the 1980s, he had become Carson’s regular guest host and Leno had become a household name. When Carson retired in 1992, NBC passed hosting duties for The Tonight Show to Jay Leno. This promotion caught his competitor David Letterman by surprise, who had also been a co-host for The Tonight Show and had his eye on the job.
For the next 17 years, Jay Leno hosted the The Tonight Show without a problem until 2009, when Leno unwillingly agreed to step down from his host position, allowing his chosen successor, Conan O’Brien, to take over. Leno then got offered a nightly prime-time program, The Jay Leno Show. When it debuted in 2009, the show did not receive the ratings NBC had expected. At the same time, Conan’s ratings were also struggling. NBC offered to rearrange both the prime time and late-night schedules to include everyone involved; however, Conan O’Brien was not very happy with such arrangement and refused to alter the schedule. Eventually, Leno took back The Tonight Show, and Conan O’Brien left NBC.
Despite the conflict and subsequent media attacks, Jay Leno continues to reign as the king of late night. With his political and current events humor, he hosts the top-rated Tonight Show nightly, which is seen in over 45 countries worldwide. Off-screen, Jay Leno spends his limited free time quietly with his wife and his collection of classic cars and motorcycles.