In the Beginning
Born April 28, 1950 in New Rochelle, New York to a Scottish immigrant mother and a second generation New Yorker, Jay Leno lived an ordinary childhood in the suburbs of Andover, Massachusetts. He attended Emerson College, earning a Bachelor’s degree in speech therapy.
Leno found comedy suited him thus strived to make a career of it. He spent the 1970s and early 1980s doing stand-up, began his own comedy club (1973), and acted in various movies and shows. He was a regular substitute host for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, eventually replacing him in 1992- a switch that created much controversy as some people thought David Letterman would take over.
Most Known For
Fans of Jay Leno easily recognize the comedian thanks to his prominent jaw, described as mandibular prognathism. In his autobiography Leading with My Chin, Leno describes the surgery to reduce his chin size, but acknowledges his reluctance to spending the healing time with his jaws wired shut.
Of course the funny man is best known for NBC’s The Tonight Show With Jay Leno which ran from 1992-2009. In the entire run time, only two episodes were cancelled, April 23 and 24th, due to Leno checking himself into a hospital for what he referred to as exhaustion.
When Leno’s contract for the show ended in September 2009, Conan O’Brien took over while Leno’s new project became NBC’s The Jay Leno Show. He took some of his popular segments to the new show.
In January 2010, due to poor viewing audiences, NBC decided to shorten both O’Brien and Leno’s shows and move the Tonight Show to 12:05 am, out of primetime. O’Brien didn’t agree with the time change, so he left the network and Leno returned to The Tonight Show, but not without plenty of controversy and criticism. Some O’Brien supporters claimed Leno was acting ‘classless’ and ‘bullying’ in addition to a shift towards disappointing monologues, while Leno supporters stood by and defended the man. Jay Leno left the show for good on February 6, 2014 with Jimmy Fallon as his successor.
Throughout this time Leno continued doing standup, especially for charity and USO events. He has been the guest for other late night shows, and hosted a special, soon to be regular show this year, on CNBC, Jay Leno’s Garage.
Life After The Tonight Show
Jay Leno has been married to Mavis Leno since 1980, they have no children. They spend much of their free time devoting time and money to charities like the Feminist Majority Campaign to stop gender apartheid and inform the public on Taliban treatment of women, and the Salem State College. Since 1985 Leno has been the Grand Marshal for the Love Ride, a motorcycle charity who has raised $14 million since its start in 1984 for various charities to include Autism Speaks and September 11th recovery.
Leno also enjoys spending time restoring classic cars- 169 automobiles and 117 motorcycles. He writes about his hobby in a regular Popular Mechanics column and occasionally in The Sunday Times.