Jay Leno has been taking it on the chin lately. Since returning to The Tonight Show in 2010, this veteran talk show host has been publicly disparaged by everyone from Howard Stern to average, everyday viewers. Their frank comments have exposed a dark and vindictive side to his personality that many fans didn’t realize existed. Which begs the question, “What else is he hiding?”
Leno has been working harder than his peers his entire life – a fact he attributes to his mild dyslexia. “My mom’s mantra was: You know you are going to have to work a lot harder than the other kids to get the same thing,” he told The New York Times in 2009. And that’s precisely what he did. He consistently spent more time on his homework and assignments than any of his classmates. Despite his diligence, Leno still only managed to achieve C’s and D’s and was even encouraged to drop out of school and pursue a trade by his high school guidance counsellor.
Leno finally got the last laugh in 1998 when he asked his fifth grade teacher, Mr. Simon, to improve his grade on a 40-year-old paper he wrote about astronaut John Glenn. “I had Glenn sign a thing for Mr. Simon and I got my paper upgraded from a C- to an A,” he said. It remains one of Leno’s proudest moments.
He worked at McDonald’s
Before he became the hardest working man in showbiz, Leno was the hardest working man at the McDonald’s on Main Street in Andover, Massachusetts. Leno began working in the restaurant as a high schooler in 1966 and credits the fast food chain with launching his comedy career. “McDonald’s had a talent show competition among its restaurants and [my manager said] ‘We need to win the New England division at least once, so why don’t you do a comedy skit or something?’” Leno revealed in the book Golden Opportunity – Remarkable Careers That Began At McDonald’s. “I said, ‘Okay, I’ll do that.’ I did a comedy routine with another guy, and we won. I got a camera and a trip to the Bahamas, and I thought, ‘Wow, maybe this could be something good!’ I wasn’t great in school, but this was something I was good at. So McDonald’s is sort of what got me into show business.”
Leno isn’t the only celebrity who has worked at the Golden Arches. Rachel McAdams, Sharon Stone, Pink, Star Jones, Seal, Carl Lewis and Shania Twain also flipped burgers at McDonald’s.
He’s a Children’s Author
Until recently, Leno had spent his entire career trying to appeal to the coveted 18-25-year-old demographic. That began changing in 2004 with the release of his first children’s book, If Roast Beef Could Fly. Based upon his own childhood experiences, the book tells the story of his father’s farcical attempt to build a giant rotisserie in their backyard.
Leno has since written a second children’s book entitled How to Be the Funniest Kid in the Whole Wide World (Or Just in Your Class). Released in 2005, the book is a playful guide on how to be a class clown, and features dozens of jokes, riddles and tongue twisters designed to appeal to the pre-teen set.
He used to write jokes for Jimmie “Dyn-o-mite” Walker
Long before Jay Leno and David Letterman became the “Kings of Late Night,” they were just two comedians struggling to make ends meet. Fortunately they had an influential fan in fellow stand-up Jimmie Walker. Walker had just started to make a name for himself in the mid-1970’s thanks to his starring role in the CBS series Good Times, and he hired both comedians to write jokes for his stage act for $150 a week. According to Walker, Leno seldom submitted any material of his own, but he frequently found ways of improving the jokes written by others. “Leno was the absolute best punch-up comic,” Walker wrote in his autobiography, Dyn-o-mite! “Something would be missing or needed to be tweaked for it to work. Jay was a master at that. He could save a joke like no one else.”
Walker remains a fan of Leno’s work, but he’s no longer a fan of the man himself. “His image has always been of this outgoing, great guy,” he recently told The Washington Post. “[But] Now his friends are Tom Cruise and Tom Hanks, these kinds of guys, but they weren’t with him when we were driving to Claremont or San Diego — five people in a car going to do a comedy club — they weren’t there. So it’s very disappointing that he has kind of shunned us. I don’t think he even knows our names now.”
He doesn’t have any vices
Unlike most comedians, Leno doesn’t have a single vice. He doesn’t drink, he doesn’t smoke, he doesn’t gamble, he doesn’t consume caffeine and he’s been married to the same woman for the last 32 years. In fact, he doesn’t even take vacations. “If you start taking vacations, you go: ‘Uh, oh. What if I like this?’” he told The New York Times in 2009. “Spending money on an experience seems like an extravagance to me.”