Johnny Carson's head writer looks at what Stephen Colbert may bring to CBS as the next host of "The Late Show."
The Wall Street Journal
James Douglas Muir Leno
April 28, 1950 in New Rochelle, New York, USA
A genial comedian who skewered the contradictions of everyday life, Jay Leno's everyman persona and tireless work ethic helped him to earn one of the most sacred spots on television, replacing Johnny Carson as host of "The Tonight Show" (NBC, 1954- ). But his ascension to Carson's throne in 1993 earned him considerable spite from David Letterman - who was long considered to be the heir apparent - as both feuded behind the scenes and in public in the so-called Late Night Wars. As he was lambasted on all sides for dulling his comedy for the masses, Leno soared in the ratings while his "Tonight Show" was the most-watched show at 11:30 p.m. Meanwhile, Leno continued cultivating his everyman image by showcasing his love of cars and motorcycles, amassing a collection that totaled some 190 vehicles, and continuing to perform stand-up across the country on his days off. In 2008, NBC shockingly announced that Leno would be replaced as "Tonight Show" host by Conan O'Brien, and in an unprecedented move, Leno revamped his show for a 10 p.m. timeslot. But that show failed spectacularly in the ratings, and precipitated a disastrous decision by NBC to fire O'Brien and allow Leno to resume his mantle. The move sparked waves of umbrage that surpassed his beef with Letterman in 1993 and turned Leno into a much-maligned figure, blasted by friends, comedians and pundits alike. Though he had his supporters, Leno returned to the show a wounded man and struggled to repair his legacy as one of the show's most successful hosts. LessA genial comedian who skewered the contradictions of everyday life, Jay Leno's everyman persona and tireless work ethic helped … More