Former "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame on Tuesday, and the comedian seemed genuinely honored by the award.
"Finally a Hall of Fame that doesn't involve a drug test... this is very exciting," Leno kicked off, monologue-style, joking that when he heard the news, he said to himself, "'Well they don't give this stuff to just anybody'... And at that moment I looked up at the TV and I saw that Vladimir Putin had just been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize."
[Related: TV Hall of Fame to Add Louis-Dreyfus, Leno]
Leno sat down with Yahoo TV and the TV Academy before the awards began (video above) and talked about his life on the road full-time now, whether or not he's added any post-"Tonight Show" material to his routine, and getting arrested. Seriously.
When talking about his wife Mavis being with him from the very beginning, through thick and thin, Leno said: "She was with me when I got arrested for vagrancy. I was arrested twice in Hollywood for no visible means of support... so yeah, we've been through a lot." Watch the whole interview, above.
Leno's acceptance speech played out a lot like a stand-up routine, even when he touched on handing over "The Tonight Show": "I can't do a duet with Jay-Z — that's not gonna happen," Leno joked before getting a bit more serious about his time on "The Tonight Show" and his successor Jimmy Fallon. "It was a great piece of history and a great time in history that I think it will be impossible to try to duplicate. I'm so thrilled and so happy to watch Jimmy Fallon do as good as he did. He just did a wonderful job... we talk once or twice a week."
"Real Time" host Bill Maher presented the award to Leno, starting with a joke: "It is a great honor to be inducting Jay Leno into the, uh... where are we again? Whatever this place is. If it is a hall with the giants of the industry, he completely belongs there," Maher joked before calling Leno "the leader of the pack of the young comedians" when Maher started doing stand-up in 1979, "and that has never changed."
"Even though he is now jobless and penniless...[laughs] he is still a fantastic stand-up. Just the fact that so many people are now talking about what he will do next... that doesn't happen to a lot of people. That tells me that he's still relevant."
Leno makes a point to never say anything negative about his colleagues or competitors, but Maher doesn't have that same rule — he took aim at short-lived "Tonight Show" host Conan O'Brien for trying to turn Leno into the bad guy.
"I cannot think of any time when he has earned any bad publicity," Maher said. "Of course the most famous time was in 2009, I guess, when somehow America got it into its head that Jay Leno had stolen Conan O'Brien's dream. Remember this? Conan said, 'He stole my dream!' And the media followed suit and wrote that and everyone believed that. And I think this is just the most hysterical thought I have ever heard in this business known for bullsh--. The idea that one person in show business could steal another person's dream is just so ludicrous. It is a zero-sum game that we're in, this show business," Maher said, hammering home his point by sharing that he auditioned for "Top Gun" in 1985, and Tom Cruise stole his dream. So yes, Bill Maher is clearly Team Leno, in case you were wondering.
Joining Leno in the 2014 induction class was Julia Louis-Dreyfus, David E. Kelley, Rupert Murdoch, former television executive Brandon Stoddard, and Ray Dolby.
Here's Jay Leno's full Hall of Fame acceptance speech:
- Arts & Entertainment
- Jay Leno
- Bill Maher