Jay Leno talks Howard Stern, Letterman, and retirement

Longtime comedian speaks to City Pages before his Mystic gig

CP: That was going to be my next question.

Leno: Same answer: I don't know. You do it until you don't do it anymore, I guess.

CP: I wanted to ask you, in that same show where Letterman made the announcement, he had Howard Stern on—

Jay Leno has had one heckuva year
courtesy of the artist
Jay Leno has had one heckuva year

Leno: I didn't see the show, but go ahead.

CP: All right, the point is, Howard Stern was giving you a certain amount of grief.

Leno: Yeah, fine, welcome to show business.

CP: He says you stole Jaywalking from his show, and the Terry Bradshaw chicken Super Bowl thing. What do you say to that?

Leno: 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 people's 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.

CP: What do you like to do in Minneapolis?

Leno: The first time I was in Minneapolis, it was Shinders bookstore, this is 25 years ago. They've got the car section, the motorcycle section, and then they've got the porno section. So I'm in there one day, and I'm like, wow, that guy looks like Ed Bradley. And I walk over there, and it is Ed Bradley. And Ed Bradley was in town talking to Andrea Dworkin, a feminist against pornography. He was in Shinders bookstore in the porno section, you know, "Magazines such as this! Blah blah blah." So I go, okay, that looks like Ed Bradley. So about a month later, I'm home, 60 Minutes is on, you see Ed Bradley, and he says, "We're here in Shinders Bookstore, pornography is demeaning to women!" and then in the corner you see me walk in, and it looks like I'm in the porno section. I didn't realize he was filming, but now I look like a creepy guy in the background.

CP: I think that Shinders is no more.

Leno: No, I think it's gone. Market Bar-B-Que is still there though, right?

CP: Yeah, it is. So are you going to be here for a day or two this time?

Leno: No, I come home every night. 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. Plus I have to come back here to do the show.

CP: Okay, so anything special that the people coming out to the show should be looking out for?

Leno: No. I mean it's just standup comedy. I mean I hope people like the show. At this point people kind of know what you do, and that's that, you know? 

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2 comments
Wordgirlsam
Wordgirlsam

Nice interview -- loved the bookstore story -- am also intrigued by Market Bar-be-que -- the name makes me hungry. Still love Leno -- to me he's a comforting presence in a very uncomfortable time. Occasionally I manage to stay up for him, Jimmy Fallon, and Carson Daly, who has an awesome show for people who really love all kinds of music.

 
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