Jay Leno cleared up a “misconception” about his relationship with David Letterman last week when he revealed that he and Dave are friends who last talked on the phone “about a month ago.”
The occasion for Leno’s candid, and seemingly heartfelt, remarks about Letterman came during an interview Friday on “The Tonight Show” with guest Andy Cohen, who hosts his own nightly talk show on NBC-owned Bravo.
Cohen turned the tables on Leno, though, when he asked Jay if he would participate in a bit Cohen calls “Plead the Fifth.” It’s something he does with his own guests on “Watch What Happens Live” — asking them three personal questions and allowing them to invoke the Fifth Amendment for one of them.
Leno, however, didn’t plead the fifth on any of the three questions, two of which dealt directly with his personal history in late-night TV and his relationships with, first, Letterman — his long-time competitor — and second, Johnny Carson, from whom Leno inherited “The Tonight Show” in 1992.
“What is the misconception about you that irritates you the most?” Cohen asked Leno, launching into his first question.
Leno thought about it briefly and then answered: “Probably that people think that Letterman and I don’t like each other.
“We actually do,” Leno said. “We started out together. He still makes me laugh as much as anybody — he and [Jerry] Seinfeld. [Dave] still makes me laugh, brilliant wordsmith, very funny guy, but there’s this sort of perception [that they dislike each other].”
“Do you speak?” Cohen asked him — apparently not one of the bit’s official “three” questions.
“Recently, I spoke to him, yeah, maybe a month ago,” Leno said. “Yes, we talked about things in TV and whatnot, and what was going on here [with Leno relinquishing "The Tonight Show" in February] and he was very nice … So that’s a misconception. I won’t plead the fifth on that one.”
We interrupt this post briefly for our take: It is our hope that Letterman and Leno discussed the possibility of Leno appearing as a guest on Letterman’s “Late Show” after he hands “The Tonight Show” over to Jimmy Fallon. In fact, we’d like to see Leno appear on “Letterman” literally on Fallon’s first day as “Tonight Show” host in order to draw viewers away from it. That would be an amazing, if unlikely, competitive move on Letterman’s part (and Leno’s too, as a matter of fact), but we remain ever-hopeful.
Meanwhile, Cohen’s second question had to do with Leno and the late Johnny Carson. “If you could say one thing to Johnny Carson, what would you say?” Cohen asked.
“You know, I would say, ‘Thank you’,” Leno said. “He gave me my break. He was very nice to me and it’s something I neglected to say [on Leno's first "Tonight Show"] because it was live, it was just one of those things.
“But actually we communicated quite a bit a number of years later and he was always very kind to me and he would send notes. So I would say, ‘Thank you’,” Leno said.
Leno didn’t exactly “plead the fifth” on the third question, but he did sidestep it. The question was: “What’s the worst piece of advice or note that you’ve been given by an NBC executive?”
Leno answered, jokingly, that he’s never met any.