In an interview with Adweek promoting his new CNBC series “Jay Leno’s Garage,” the former “Tonight Show” host spoke out about the persistent lack of diversity in the current late-night lineup.
Asked whether he could believe how much the late-night landscape has changed since he left the “Tonight Show” (which boasts an entirely new group of hosts, apart from Jimmy Kimmel), Leno didn’t seem too impressed.
"No, it's exactly the same,” he responded. "It’s all white guys. What's changed? Nothing's changed. You just replace one white guy with another. I'm waiting for the breakthrough African-American or female host. But it's all white guys, and most of them are named Jimmy.”
"Whenever we do a show, I always try to have good diversity—not hit people over the head with it,” he continued. "But in the car show, we talk to women stunt drivers, women drag racers, because you don't want it to be a bunch of old white guys. You want to see the African-American car culture, the Latino car culture. So you try to be very inclusive—you try to bring everybody in the tent. That's something we always tried to do on The Tonight Show, and that's what we try to do here.”
There were some other interesting tidbits in the interview, including a rather callous anecdote about booting a guest off "The Tonight show" when her publicist tried to limit the scope of the interview. As he put it, when asked what he missed about doing the show each night:
"I don't miss a lot of publicists. My favorite one we had was some ice-skater who had won some gold medals, and then 10 years later, she's in Playboy. And the publicist pitched it, all right, second guest. She comes and the publicist pulled me aside: 'We're not discussing the Playboy issue.' I've never said this before, but I said, 'Why don't you take your client and go home. She's only here because she took her clothes off in a magazine after winning gold.' I mean, I'm not going to insult her. I'm not going to make her feel cheap. But if you don't want to discuss it, I can get a comic here in six minutes."
Leno also addressed his absence from the “Letterman” finale, indicating that his long-time rival asked him to appear, but he turned down the offer.
"I asked Dave to do a 10-second tape for us [when I left]. Anything, just, 'Leno who?’” he explained. "They said no, they didn't want to do it. Well, why am I going to run all the way to New York? I mean, quid pro quo. I just said, 'No, that's kind of silly.’"
Fortunately, Leno and successor Jimmy Fallon don't have such a contentious history to navigate. Watch the former host drop in for a surprise appearances on last night's "Tonight Show" below.