Jay Leno is an American comedian, television host, actor, writer, and producer who hosted NBC’s The Tonight Show with Jay Leno from 1992 to 2009 and then again from 2010 to 2014 after briefly retiring in 2009. He has a net worth of $450 million.
Early Life and Education
Jay Leno was born James Douglas Muir Leno on April 28, 1950 in New Rochelle, New York. His mother, Catherine, was a homemaker and his father, Angelo, worked as an insurance salesman. Leno grew up in Andover, Massachusetts and graduated from Andover High School. He went on to receive his bachelor’s degree in speech therapy from Emerson College in 1973.
Career Beginnings in Comedy
Leno began his career in comedy clubs during the 1970s. He made his first appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1977. He became a regular guest host on The Tonight Show starting in 1987. When Carson retired in 1992, Leno took over as host. His last episode of The Tonight Show aired on May 29, 2009.
Hosting The Tonight Show
Leno hosted The Tonight Show with Jay Leno for 22 seasons. Under his leadership, The Tonight Show was the most watched late night talk show and won two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series. Notable moments during Leno’s tenure include interviewing public figures like Presidents Clinton and Obama, hosting Arnold Schwarzenegger announcing his campaign for California governor, and featuring musical guests like Madonna and Paul McCartney.
Retirement and Return to The Tonight Show
In 2009, Leno retired from The Tonight Show, passing the torch to Conan O’Brien. However, a few months later, Leno returned to host The Jay Leno Show, which aired weeknights at 10pm on NBC. O’Brien’s stint as host of The Tonight Show lasted just seven months before he left NBC. Leno returned as host of The Tonight Show in March 2010 and remained host until his second departure in February 2014, when Jimmy Fallon took over as host.
Other TV Appearances
In addition to The Tonight Show, Leno has made guest appearances on TV shows like Good Times, Laverne & Shirley, Joanie Loves Chachi, The Drew Carey Show, Mad About You, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. He voiced characters in Nickelodeon’s Hey Arnold! and The Fairly OddParents. From 2016 to 2019, he hosted the CNBC show Jay Leno’s Garage.
Leno continues to regularly perform stand-up comedy routines at venues across the country. He has done comedy tours with the likes of Jerry Seinfeld. Leno is known for his clean, family-friendly comedy that often centers on satirical takes on everyday life and current events.
Some of his comedy specials include:
- Jay Leno: The Golden Age of Comedy (2019)
- Jay Leno: Old Enough to Know Better (2012)
- Jay Leno: Flip Side of the News (1992)
Leno has been a prolific writer and author during his career. He wrote for TV series like Good Times before becoming famous. He also wrote for late night hosts like David Letterman. Leno has written numerous books, including:
- Leading with My Chin (1996) – autobiography
- How to Be the Funniest Kid in the Whole Wide World (2005) – children’s book
- If Roast Beef Could Fly (2004) – humor book
- Jay Leno’s Police Blotter (1998) – humor book
He also writes a weekly column for The Sunday Times.
Car Collection and Other Activties
Leno is an avid car collector and owns approximately 286 vehicles, including many rare, antique, and expensive cars like McLarens and Bugattis. His car collection is estimated to be worth over $52 million. Leno often features his cars in segments on his TV shows.
He is also actively involved in philanthropic work. He has served as honorary chair of the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls. He has done pro-bono legal work and sits on the board of the Lumina Foundation.
Leno has been married to his wife Mavis since 1980. The couple resides in Los Angeles. In his free time, Leno enjoys working on and collecting cars and motorcycles, touring comedy clubs, and visiting with US soldiers as part of the United Service Organization.
Net Worth and Legacy
According to various reports, Jay Leno’s net worth stands at an estimated $450 million. His incredible wealth stems from his long tenure hosting The Tonight Show, stand-up comedy performances, hosting other TV shows, writing books and articles, and his investments in his extensive car collection.
Leno’s legacy as one of America’s most popular late night personalities remains intact. His unique brand of humor and ability to connect with audiences has endured past his time as host on The Tonight Show. Leno helped maintain NBC’s dominance in late night TV against rivals David Letterman and Conan O’Brien over two separate long stretches as host. His prolific career continues today through stand-up comedy, hosting gigs, and his undying passion for cars.