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Jay Leno Blames Jimmy Kimmel's Soft Ratings on Kimmel's 'Mean Streak'

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | August 13, 2015 |

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | August 13, 2015 |

We are not done with Jay Leno, alas. While Letterman will probably take the Johnny Carson route and all but disappear from public life, Leno has a new show coming out in October on CNBC. It’s about his cars or something, God. Who cares?

Anyway, he’s still around, and TVLine spoke to him at the NBC’s Television Critics Association press tour party, where Leno essentially confirmed what we already knew about not appearing on Dave’s final show:

When I did my last show, I asked Dave to send a 10-second tape. No, they didn’t want to do it. All right, so why would I go all the way to New York? It’s just quid pro quo. I went to New York and did the Oprah [Super Bowl] commercial for Dave. And that’s not anything against Dave; he’s just an odd duck. Kind of socially awkward, I don’t know. We go back a long time, we have a lot of history. Not bad history. We started out together; I think we both complemented each other when we started out. I didn’t know what Dave’s attitude would be, so we just didn’t do it.

Not bad history? I think there was some fairly bad history there that really began when Leno squeezed out Carson and pushed Letterman aside to take over The Tonight Show, but, you know, bygones. I wouldn’t have done it, either, if I were Leno, because Dave probably would’ve made a mockery of him.

Meanwhile, while Leno has a few nice things to say about Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert, he’s not as kind toward Jimmy Kimmel, who you may recall essentially destroyed Jay Leno when Kimmel was a guest on Leno a few years back in one of the most uncomfortable interviews in late-night history.

Here’s what Leno had to say about Kimmel:

The most element you can have in doing a late night show is kindness. Because the show makes you arrogant. I think that’s Jimmy Kimmel’s problem. I think he’s a talented guy, I think he’s funny. But he has a mean streak, and it comes across. He does this thing where he takes Halloween candy from kids and the kids cry. What am I missing here? It is funny I guess, but it’s mean-based. I think that’s why he’s not higher in the ratings.


I’d just remind you all that Jay Leno made the same three jokes for over two decades, and they all came at the expense of Catholic priests, Monica Lewinsky, and Judge Ito. But recall, also, that one of Leno’s most popular segments was “Jaywalking,” where he’d go out essentially make fun of rubes for how dumb they were.

But that’s different, I guess. The rubes he made fun of didn’t realize they were being mocked.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.