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Relive Marc Summers Painful Confrontation with Burt Reynolds on 'The Tonight Show'

By Andrew Sanford | TV | February 14, 2023 |

By Andrew Sanford | TV | February 14, 2023 |


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I cover late-night happenings for Pajiba. However, to borrow a phrase from Matt Gourley and Matt Mira, I’m a lover, not an expert. Over the years, I have consumed hours of interviews, sketches, and Conan yelling at Jordan Schlansky. Still, I’m only human and capable of missing things. That is why I was as surprised as Marc Maron was to learn that Double Dare host Marc Summers once had it out with Burt Reynolds on Jay Leno’s show.

Early on in the newest episode of WTF with Marc Maron, the host stops and asks listeners to pause the video and look up an old Leno interview. Marc is not the first podcast host to ask me to do this. He is the first one to succeed. I paused, searched “Marc Summers” and before I could add Burt Reynolds’s name, Google did it for me. I wasn’t the only one to pause and search at Marc’s request. Watching the video first was worth it.

Here is the interview in question.

Tense, right?! In the video, Summers appears on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Reynolds is the previous guest and stays out on the couch. Within a couple of minutes, Reynolds interrupts to ask a question. He says he’s asking because he’s been “talking to a back.” God forbid Summers focus on the person interviewing him and not the aging star to his right! Summers reacts by making a joke about Burt’s marital status. Reynolds responds by dumping water on Summers’s lap. It is incredibly uncomfortable and made worse by Jay Leno grinning like a jackal the whole time.

To be clear, Burt Reynolds is in the wrong here. Marc Summers dreamed of hosting The Tonight Show. Here he is getting to appear on it, and Reynolds needs to make it about himself. Sitting on the couch in a late-night interview isn’t the most forgiving, but Burt barely gave Marc a chance to get comfortable. While I wouldn’t have made a joke at Burt’s expense as a response, Summers is justified in his unrepentant attitude toward the ordeal.

For a brief moment, I thought the whole interaction might have been staged. How Summers and Reynolds get physical with each other kills that theory. It is clear they are reacting in the moment. That said, it immediately reminded me of the infamous Letterman interview between Andy Kaufman and Jerry Lawler. That moment felt real as can be but was later revealed to be staged. It is a fun coincidence because Summers went to school with Kaufman!

I have a whole new respect for Marc Summers and recommend listening to the whole interview. He has had a fascinating career, faced some intense health problems, and has emerged smiling on the other side. Plus, he got to throw water and a pie at Burt Reynolds. Who else can say that?