The late night drama with Jay Leno is still being discussed.
Leno stopped by Bill Maher’s Club random podcast and his longtime friend brought up the controversy surrounding his departure The Tonight Show.
Leno left The Tonight Show in May 2009 and was replaced by Conan O’Brien, a deal five years in the making, and Leno moved to 10pm with The Jay Leno Show.
Neither show performed well in the ratings, however, and after much back and forth, O’Brien left and Leno returned to The Tonight Show until 2014.
Speaking to Maher, Leno said it was never his intention to “deliberately sabotage” The Tonight Show hosted by O’Brien, an allegation made. “It doesn’t work that way. You try your best,” he said.
When asked why he stayed with NBC instead of moving to another network, Leno said, “Sometimes the czar you have is better than the one you go”. “Then your old team will also shoot you. I thought let’s just play this out and see what happens. This all happened pretty quickly,” he added.
However, another factor was ABC and Jimmy Kimmel. In 2008, Leno discussed making the switch to ABC, something Steve McPherson, president of ABC Entertainment, admitted publicly.
This would have meant that Jimmy Kimmel Live! from midnight to 12:35 pm.
Leno spoke to Kimmel, who was OK with the idea in theory, confident that he would get a better lead than nightline. However, Kimmel has said that Leno never called him back to let him know he was staying with NBC.
“I think I should have called Jimmy and explained it to him again, but I didn’t. I don’t know why I didn’t. I just didn’t. I thought he would probably find out. But I think he might have been hurt because of that, and I apologized to him for that,” Leno added.
The You bet your life host added that he found Kimmel “really funny” and did a great job hosting the Oscars. “It’s just one of those awkward situations where he was a huge Letterman guy and then Letterman didn’t understand… The Tonight Show, somehow it was my fault. I think he hated that and I understand. But Dave never had that The Tonight Show’ he added.
Leno also spoke of a changing world where linear ratings for late night shows are dramatically lower than when he was in space.
“The hardest thing about late night now is the commercials. You know, you get used to streaming and watching Netflix and I say ‘Let me see what the guys are doing.’ I go, ‘Another commercial?’ I mean, there’s a nine-minute intermission from 12 noon to 12:09 pm on almost all shows. After 11pm you can add more commercials, so…” he said.