James Douglas Muir Leno (born April 28, 1950) is an American comedian, actor, writer, producer, and television host. After doing stand-up comedy for years, he became the host of NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno from 1992 to 2009. Beginning in September 2009, Leno started a primetime talk show, titled The Jay Leno Show, which aired weeknights at 10:00 p.m. ET, also on NBC. After The Jay Leno Show was canceled in January 2010 amid a host controversy, Leno returned to host The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on March 1, 2010. He hosted his last episode of The Tonight Show on February 6, 2014. That year, he was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame.
The Tonight Show
- Welcome back! If you're wondering where our good friend -- Kevin Eubanks couldn't be here. Kevin is on tour. He's in France right now. He called me today and he's over there and he wouldn't be back until next week. So if you're wondering where Kevin Eubanks is, he's with us in spirit certainly.
Okay. Boy, this is the hard part. I want to thank you, the audience. You folks have been just incredibly loyal. (emotionally) This is tricky. (laughs) We wouldn't be on the air without you people. Secondly, this has been the greatest 22 years of my life. (applause)
I am the luckiest guy in the world. I got to meet presidents, astronauts, movie stars, it's just been incredible. I got to work with lighting people who made me look better than I really am. I got to work with audio people who made me sound better than I really do. (voice breaking) And I got to work with producers! And writers! (choked pause) And just all kinds of talented people who make me look a lot smarter than I really am.
I'll tell you something. First year of this show, I lost my mom. Second year, I lost my dad. Then my brother died. And after that, I was pretty much out of family. And the folks here became my family. Consequently, when they went through rough times, I tried to be there for them. The last time we left the show, you might remember we had the 64 children that were born among all our staffers that married. That was a great moment.
And when people say to me, hey why don't you go to ABC? Why don't you go to FOX? Why don't you go…? I didn't know anybody over there. These are the only people I have ever known. I'm also proud to say this is a a union show. And I have never worked (applause) -- I have never worked with a more professional group of people in my life. They get paid good money and they do a good job.
And when the guys and women on this show would show me the new car they bought or the house up the street here in Burbank that one of the guys got, I felt I played a bigger role in their success as they played in mine. That was just a great feeling.
And I'm really excited for Jimmy Fallon. You know, it's fun to kind of be the old guy and sit back here and see where the next generation takes this great institution, and it really is. It's been a great institution for 60 years. I am so glad I got to be a part of it, but it really is time to go, hand it off to the next guy; it really is.
And in closing, I want to quote Johnny Carson, who was the greatest guy to ever do this job. And he said, I bid you all a heartfelt good night. Now that I brought the room down, hey, Garth, have you got anything to liven this party up? Give it a shot! Garth Brooks!
- 106 [degrees] in the valley… I was sweating like Dan Rather checking for forged documents.
- How many watched the President's speech last night?
[half-hearted audience applause]
How many watched American Idol?
Okay, there you go! You get the government you deserve.
- So China's president [Hu Jintao] meets, uh— meets America's president. It's like President "Who?" meeting President "Huh?".
- A new poll shows that Americans now believe that Bill Clinton is more honest than President Bush. […] At least when Clinton screwed the nation, he did it one person at a time.
- And some sad news… the first lesbian couple to legally get married in the state of Massachusetts has split up. They cited irreconcilable similarities.
- Stephen Hawking is getting a divorce. That's scary. If the smartest guy in the world can't figure out women, we're screwed.
- Afterwards, President Bush said, "Maliki is the right man for the job." Just to remind you, Bush also said FEMA's Michael Brown was the right man for the job, Donald Rumsfeld was the right man for the job, Tom DeLay was the right man for the job… which would be okay if Bush was the right man for the job.
- Now, today is the day we honor, of course, the Presidents, ranging from George Washington, who couldn't tell a lie, to George Bush, who couldn't tell the truth, to Bill Clinton, who couldn't tell the difference.
- Women will soon be able to make their own sperm using their own bone marrow. Is that unbelievable? How unfair is that for us guys, huh? I mean, all these years, we've been in charge of manufacturing and distribution, you know what I'm saying? We provide free delivery and installation…
- No, they said they do not believe in evolution, then they said the biggest threat to America: religious radicals living in the Dark Ages.
- "Fred, what happened to your ass?" "Oh, the fat guy at the office sneezed on me."
- How many of you watched the vice presidential debate expecting Sarah Palin to screw up? Be honest. [cheers and applause] : And how many of you watched the debate expecting Joe Biden to screw up? [more cheers and applause] : And how many of you watched the baseball game knowing the Cubs would screw up? [more applause]
- [about the Chicago Cubs being swept by the L.A. Dodgers in the 2008 NLDS]: How about next year, we only let the Cubs play using steroids?
- Folks, tomorrow America will get to hear those four words we've been waiting for: "Former president George Bush".
- Hillary says she has been tested. Well, I hope so. You never know what Bill might bring home.
- And as you know, this whole Hillary e-mail scandal brought Anthony Wiener back into the news. Now here's a question nobody has asked. Anthony Wiener is Jewish, right? Right? So does this scandal make him a Hebrew National Wiener?
- The economy is so bad, two Milwaukee men were arrested this week for trying to join ISIS. Did you hear their excuse, they said, "Hey! Nobody else is hiring!" THAT'S how bad it is!
- The economy is so bad, I saw Matthew McConaughey talking to himself in a Kia! THAT'S how bad it is!
French Bashing and Francophobia
- Well, there's nothing funnier to me than the French. The French Resistance is probably the biggest mythical joke that ever existed. There were four guys in the French Resistance. They couldn't hand over the Jewish people fast enough. Oh, please, don't tell me about the French. The French have all sorts of secret deals with Saddam and everybody else for two cents a liter. It's an easy target.
- interview with Nikki Finke, LA Weekly, September 17, 2004
- French troops arrived in Afghanistan last week, and not a minute too soon. The French are acting as advisers to the Taliban, to teach them how to surrender properly.
- The Tonight Show, November 26, 2004
- "This is now the twelfth day of rioting in France. They have been rioting for almost two weeks. And France has still not surrendered. That's like a record.
- The Tonight Show, November 7, 2005, as reported on miquelon.org
- Congratulations to the Italian people for winning the World Cup. … They won after France’s best player got ejected for head butting. That’s the closest anyone in a French uniform has come to combat in 60 years
- The Tonight Show, July 11th, 2006
- In America, we like everyone to know about the good work we're doing anonymously.
- Said on a 2008 episode (12.7) of British motoring program Top Gear.
- Racecar driving is a lot like sex; all men think they're good at it.
- Said on a 2009 episode (13.7) of British motoring program Top Gear.