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Jay Leno Biography

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Jay Leno Biography

Jay Leno, host of The Tonight Show

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Jay Leno was born ..:

.. James Douglas Muir-Leno on April 28, 1950, in New Rochelle, New York.

Growing up with Jay:

During his early years, the Leno family would move from New York to Andover, Mass. Jay attended Emerson College in Boston where he earned his degree in speech therapy in 1973.

Jay's first job:

A series of nine-to-fivers and pay-the-renters, as Leno carved out a career in stand-up comedy.

The Early Years:

And carved out he did. Leno played any club, any stage, anywhere that would allow him. He had - and has - a colossal work ethic, one that has led to great success. But it took awhile. Even after initial appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Leno would still have to hustle to find work.

Later, when colleagues became more influential, Jay found himself working more on television. He eventually became permanent guest host of The Tonight Show.

Becoming a talk show host:

The guest host gig led to an offer to take over the show as host. Johnny had unexpectedly announced his retirement, and the search was on for a replacement.

A key moment in his career:

Accepting the offer to become host of The Tonight Show. It was a close call, too. Word has it, David Letterman was upset that he'd been passed over for the job (NBC executives enjoyed Dave's high ratings at 12:30 and saw no reason to change that). When it looked as though Dave might leave for another network, execs scrambled - and almost gave Dave the job. But in the end, Jay proved his worth by garnering big ratings and big audiences.

What does the future hold?:

More stand-up for sure (even now he can be found doing weekend gigs in Las Vegas or California). And trailblazing, as Jay launches a prime time talk show on NBC called The Jay Leno Show. The program, which will play five nights a week at 10 p.m. on the network, debuts in September 2009.

And Just For Fun:

  • Is an avid car collector, with 84 cars and more than 70 motorcycles in his collection.

  • Starred opposite Pat Morita in B-movie title Collision Course

  • Has cameoed on a number of TV shows and films, including Good Times, Major League II, and The Simpsons.

  • Voices the character Fast Tony in Ice Age 2

  • Suffers from dyslexia

  • Drove the pace car to start the 2006 Daytona 500.

  • During the 2007 Writer's Strike, Jay was well known for bringing donuts and lunch to the writers on the picket. He was also one of the first talk show hosts to return to work without his writers (along with David Letterman and Conan O'Brien). He received flak for his opening monologue, which was considered "written" and against Writer's Guild rules.

  • Speculation was that Jay could have leapt over to ABC from NBC and head up a new talk show after leaving The Tonight Show. Some of that came true, as Jay will now host a new talk show - but on his network of choice, NBC.

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