Television legend Jay Leno appeared back in the world of late-night TV recently, only this time, he was the one answering questions. The former host of The Tonight Show was on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen and was not afraid to answer questions on the "feuds" he's had with other television personalities over the years. This, of course, meant Leno had to revisit his rivalry with David Letterman, although he insisted it wasn't as spiteful as many have believed over the years.
You know the idea that we hate each other, the media makes a big deal about it, but I am a huge fan. When I started, Letterman was a great wordsmith. He could put things together but he’s kind of a hesitant performer. I was a very loud, boisterous performer, but I wasn’t that good a writer. So I watched him and said ‘Oh man how do you put those sentences together?’ And he watched me going ‘How can he be so confident on (stage)?’ So I think we kind of took from each other a little bit.
Years after both men have left the air, Jay Leno is now saying he never hated David Letterman. With that said, their famed rivalry, stemming from who got the vacant seat Johnny Carson left on The Tonight Show is well-documented, and it's kind of hard to believe there weren't some feelings about the change over at one time. In fact, the two late night hosts publicly took jabs at each other quite often over their tenures, and Jay Leno ultimately refused to appear in one of Letterman's final episodes.
Whether he's genuine or it's just good PR, Jay Leno has somewhat romanticized his rivalry with David Letterman in his later years. After all, it's a feud that he ultimately won, as he became the host of The Tonight Show and Letterman was overlooked by NBC. Of course, it ultimately spurred Letterman's move to CBS, and a famous late-night rivalry that entertained audiences for some time. Does it really matter if they didn't get along in real life?
After all, excessive hatred and verbal bashing didn't do much to elevate Howard Stern's feud with Jay Leno. Leno told Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen the feud didn't really exist mostly because he largely ignored it.
I don’t respond... Never explain, never complain, that’s my thing. You know, if they’re talking about you, fine. But he would go on and on...I didn’t get into the feud because you’re not going to win a feud with Howard. Howard’s good. If you start that feud, boom, you’re down...I think he’s really talented, I he’s a good interviewer. I think he gets things out of people, you know I used to do his show all the time before all this started, so I just looked at it as it’s a business and that’s part of the business. And so I don’t hold any grudges, I’d listen to him now, he’s funny, he’s good... no problem.
The strategy never really prevented Howard Stern from ripping on Jay Leno, but it's fair to say this "feud" never escalated to the level of Letterman and Leno. The former host of The Tonight Show Host handled both questions with grace, and had nothing but kind things to say about both men. It was a classy response, and one that comes from a celebrity probably not wishing to stir the pot in his retirement years.