Uh-oh, Jay Leno is playing the victim again. He was on Oprah today to set the record straight, and by set the record straight, we mean throw himself a pity party while Oprah gives him a shoulder to cry on.
Leno began the interview by saying that, while he shoved Conan O'Brien out of the 11:35 PM time slot, O'Brien pushed him off of The Tonight Show first. According to Leno, in order for NBC to keep O'Brien form going to a rival network, it had to promise him The Tonight Show. To facilitate that, Leno said, NBC forced him into early retirement-something he admitted was a "white lie," as he had no intention of calling it quits. All of that said, did anyone hear Leno crying about it at the time? Nope! It's hard to tell if his statements are genuine or not, but Oprah seemed to sympathize with Leno here.
Then, Leno said he was "sucker-punched" by Jimmy Kimmel when he had him on for The Jay Leno Show's 10@10 segment on January 14. Leno stated that he could have edited parts of the segment out, but ended up taking the high-road and keeping it all in. Wouldn't it be difficult to edit a 10@10 segment, though? Surely people would notice that there weren't 10 questions contained therein and start calling Leno a coward. Oh, wait-they did, anyway.
Things did get a little juicy when Leno tried to compare himself to Oprah. Oprah announced that she will end her show on after 25 years, similar to Leno announcing he would quit The Tonight Show in five years. When Leno proposes that he and Oprah should go out together, the laugh Oprah gives shows just how differently Oprah and Leno operate; mainly that Oprah sticks to her word, while Leno does not. She then asks the hardest question yet: What would you be without your TV show? After a quick survey of the things that matter to him besides being on television, Leno says that he will always be a comedian first and foremost.
Then Leno addresses the cheap shot he took at David Letterman's infidelity. Oprah thinks that a low-blow like that is beneath him, but Jay says that one cheap shot deserves another—but only one!
Also, this statement happens to be a complete lie. Resident Late Night expert Matt Cherette immediately recalled three other jokes Leno made at Letterman's expense just last week:
Towards the end of the interview, Oprah decided to give her two cents. And in doing so she announced that she may be one of the only people in America to be on Team Leno besides Mavis and Kevin Eubanks. Saying that Leno didn't steal The Tonight Show, because it wasn't his show to steal.
Finally, Leno says that none of the blame should be passed to him. It's a dollars and cents game, and when it came down to it, Conan wasn't raking in enough cash. Although he conveniently forgets how NBC gave Leno a chance after his Tonight Show floundered out of the gate ratings-wise in '92.
Leno seemed to do a lot of dodging and weaving, passing the buck, and generally blaming everyone and everything except himself. He blamed Conan's ratings, he blamed capitalism, and he blamed NBC executives. He tried to paint himself as an altruistic comedian who just following the orders of NBC big-wigs. He wishes things turned out differently, but should we really blame him? He's just a company man following orders from a network admitted himself handled the Late Night situation extremely poorly. It all just makes him look short-sighted, ignorant, and most of all, cowardly.