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Jay Leno

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Also Known As: James Douglas Muir Leno Died:
Born: April 28, 1950 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: New Rochelle, New York, USA Profession: comedian, TV host, actor, deliveryman, Rolls Royce auto mechanic

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

A genial comedian who skewered the contradictions of everyday life, Jay Leno's everyman persona and tireless work ethic helped him to earn one of the most sacred spots on television, replacing Johnny Carson as host of "The Tonight Show" (NBC, 1954- ). But his ascension to Carson's throne in 1993 earned him considerable spite from David Letterman - who was long considered to be the heir apparent - as both feuded behind the scenes and in public in the so-called Late Night Wars. As he was lambasted on all sides for dulling his comedy for the masses, Leno soared in the ratings while his "Tonight Show" was the most-watched show at 11:30 p.m. Meanwhile, Leno continued cultivating his everyman image by showcasing his love of cars and motorcycles, amassing a collection that totaled some 190 vehicles, and continuing to perform stand-up across the country on his days off. In 2008, NBC shockingly announced that Leno would be replaced as "Tonight Show" host by Conan O'Brien, and in an unprecedented move, Leno revamped his show for a 10 p.m. timeslot. But that show failed spectacularly in the ratings, and precipitated a disastrous decision by NBC to fire O'Brien and allow Leno to resume his mantle. The move...

A genial comedian who skewered the contradictions of everyday life, Jay Leno's everyman persona and tireless work ethic helped him to earn one of the most sacred spots on television, replacing Johnny Carson as host of "The Tonight Show" (NBC, 1954- ). But his ascension to Carson's throne in 1993 earned him considerable spite from David Letterman - who was long considered to be the heir apparent - as both feuded behind the scenes and in public in the so-called Late Night Wars. As he was lambasted on all sides for dulling his comedy for the masses, Leno soared in the ratings while his "Tonight Show" was the most-watched show at 11:30 p.m. Meanwhile, Leno continued cultivating his everyman image by showcasing his love of cars and motorcycles, amassing a collection that totaled some 190 vehicles, and continuing to perform stand-up across the country on his days off. In 2008, NBC shockingly announced that Leno would be replaced as "Tonight Show" host by Conan O'Brien, and in an unprecedented move, Leno revamped his show for a 10 p.m. timeslot. But that show failed spectacularly in the ratings, and precipitated a disastrous decision by NBC to fire O'Brien and allow Leno to resume his mantle. The move sparked waves of umbrage that surpassed his beef with Letterman in 1993 and turned Leno into a much-maligned figure, blasted by friends, comedians and pundits alike. Though he had his supporters, Leno returned to the show a wounded man and struggled to repair his legacy as one of the show's most successful hosts.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
2.
 Love the Beast (2009)
4.
 Igor (2008)
6.
 Underdog (2007)
8.
9.
10.
 Cars (2006)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Raised in Andover, MA
:
Emceed campus talent shows while in college and performed stand-up comedy in local nightclubs
1973:
Moved to Los Angeles
:
Hired to write comedy material for hit CBS sitcom "Good Times"
:
Performed as warm-up act for entertainers such as Johnny Mathis, John Denver, and Tom Jones
1977:
Made first appearance on "The Tonight Show" (NBC)
1977:
First notable film appearance, "Silver Bears"
1977:
Regularly appeared on short-lived CBS variety series "The Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. Show"
1986:
Played sold-out engagement at Carnegie Hall
1986:
Hosted and produced first hour-long comedy special "Jay Leno and the American Dream" (Showtime)
1986:
Signed exclusive contract with NBC
1986:
Named one of two permanent guest hosts of "The Tonight Show"
1988:
Named exclusive guest host of "The Tonight Show"
1989:
Landed most prominent film role in "Collision Course," playing a detective opposite Pat Morita
1991:
Announced to replace Johnny Carson as host of "The Tonight Show" (NBC) after the latter retired May 1992
1992:
Hosted "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" (NBC)
1993:
Signed five-year $40 million contract with NBC to continuing hosting "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno"
1998:
Signed five-year contract extension with NBC for reported $100 million
2000:
Received star on Hollywood Walk of Fame
2001:
Extended contract to host "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" (NBC) through 2005
2004:
Signed new deal with NBC worth $100 million that kept him at helm of "The Tonight Show" through 2009
2005:
Lent his voice to a talking fire hydrant in animated feature "Robots"
2006:
Voiced 'Jay Limo' in Disney/Pixar film "Cars"
2008:
Lent voice to animated feature "Igor"
2009:
Left "The Tonight Show" after 16 years; handed show over publicly to successor Conan O'Brien
2009:
Hosted primetime talk series "The Jay Leno Show" on NBC; show canceled after four months due to low ratings and outrage from NBC affiliates across the country; considered one of the biggest programming fiascos in TV history
2010:
Reinstated as host of "The Tonight Show" following Conan O'Brien's exit from NBC after his refusal to allow his "Tonight Show" to be bumped to midnight in favor of Leno being moved back to 11:30 p.m.
2012:
Guest starred on FX sitcom "Louie"
2013:
Jimmy Fallon announced as his replacement to host "The Tonight Show" beginning spring 2014
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Andover High School: Andover , Massachusetts -
Emerson College: Boston , Massachusetts - 1973

Notes

Among the television specials Leno has starred in are "Jay Leno and the American Dream", "The Jay Leno Show", "Our Planet Tonight", and "Jay Leno's Family Comedy Hour"

Not a particularly outstanding student in grade school, Leno became known for such playful pranks as flushing tennis balls down the toilet and hiding a dog in a locker. His fifth grade teacher's exasperated remarks on his report card proved to be ironically prophetic: "If Jay spent as much time studying as he does trying to be a comedian, he'd be a big star." (quoted in "Earl Blackwell's Entertainment Celebrity Register", New York: Celebrity Register Inc., 1991)

"As society gets more bizarre, I get more conservative on stage. Comedy is basically conservative. The joke is about how things are out of whack."--Jay Leno (LOS ANGELES TIMES, September 9, 1991)

"I would rather make fun of the corporation of whatever it is that dehumanizes people than make fun of the people themselves....I love to travel the country and identify the absurd."--Jay Leno (quoted in Blackwell)

Remarking on his avoidance of racist, sexist or ethnic humor, Leno observes, "I find I get more laughs working clean." (quoted in Blackwell)

Remembering his college days, Leno reflected on the oddity of dormitory rules: "You could do anything in your room. You could smoke pot, live in a coed dorm, have a girl. But you just couldn't have a hot plate! 'Mrs. Leno? This is the dean. We've got your son Jay--yes, it was on suspicion of soup. The lab boys say it was definitely Campbell's Cream of Mushroom.'" (quoted in article by Peter Tauber)

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Mavis Nicholson. Writer. Married in 1980; has written scripts and children's books; has also campaigned against female genital mutilation.

Family close complete family listing

mother:
Cathryn Leno. Homemaker. Born in Scotland c. 1911; died on June 26, 1993 in Andover, Massachusetts.
father:
Angelo Leno. Insurance salesman. Died on August 16, 1994 at age 83 in Andover, Massachusetts.
brother:
Patrick Leno.

Bibliography close complete biography

"Headlines Three: Not the Movie, Still the Book" Warner Books
"Leading With My Chin" HarperCollins
"If Roast Beef Could Fly" Simon & Schuster

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