Jay Leno is set to retire as host of "The Tonight Show" next February (for real this time), but once upon a time, he was just a fresh-faced comic excited about inheriting Johnny Carson's throne. CBS, the network who would later hire David Letterman as Leno's competition, released a 1992 interview with Leno from "60 Minutes" soon after he took the job.
In the interview, we see rare behind-the-scenes footage of Leno's "Tonight Show," as well as insight from the comic about his life and work habits. A few notable takeaways:
- When Steve Kroft asks Leno about the accusation that he has become more "bland" since taking "The Tonight Show," Leno doesn't disagree. "Yeah, it's probably true," he says. If only he knew that critics would make this a rallying cry over the next two decades.
- Early in his career, Leno couldn't find work outside stand-up because his appearance might be "frightening to children." One casting director even wanted him to have his jaw reset to become more attractive to television audiences.
- He used to call fans personally to respond to letters complaining about his jokes.
- No political party appeals to him. "Every time I think I'm a Republican they do something greedy, and every time I think I'm a Democrat they do something stupid."
- He had very little personal relationship with his "Tonight Show" predecessor, Johnny Carson. When Kroft asks him about whether they speak regularly, Leno says no. "I would feel funny. [We're at] a different level economically and socially. I don't know what I would talk about."
Also notable is the fact that the interview does not mention the Leno/Letterman battle at all, which had been a media undercurrent of the "Tonight Show" transition. Check out the clip above to see Leno's full interview on "60 Minutes."