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|Subject: Jay Leno, tall, imposing American nightclub comedian turned television comic and talk show host, whose shock of thick hair, wide eyes, protruding chin and artful comic style have helped make him one of the busiest and most recognizable performers in TV entertainment during the 1980s and 90s. David Harrison Levi|
David Harrison Levi
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Date Posted: 02:20:12 03/22/07 Thu
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Tall, imposing American nightclub comedian turned television comic and talk show host, whose shock of thick hair, wide eyes, protruding chin and artful comic style have helped make him one of the busiest and most recognizable performers in TV entertainment during the 1980s and 90s. First and foremost, Leno is a sly but determinedly clean-cut chronicler of American follies and foibles--on a proposed Congressional pay raise, for example, he made a suggestion quoted on the national nightly news: "They say if we give them a 50 percent pay increase they'll stop outside speaking engagements. Maybe if we give them 100 percent, they'll stop talking altogether.”
Beginning in nightclubs and on tour (for years Leno was making 300 personal appearances annually), Leno made a few early stabs at television and acted in several films ("American Hot Wax" 1978, "Americathlon" 1979). He did not really hit his stride, though, until the mid-1980s, when numerous appearances on late-night TV (especially "The David Letterman Show") gained him a niche as an occasional replacement for Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show". After Leno's quick wit and easy manner managed a more-than-fair share in the ratings, he was made the show's permanent guest host in 1988 and chosen to be Carson's successor in 1992.
Following in Carson's well-established footsteps was certain to prove a daunting undertaking, and there was an initial slight ratings slip as well as some backstage problems with former executive producer Helen Gorman Kushnick. On the whole, though, Leno managed the transition with the good-humored grace viewers had long since come to expect from him. When David Letterman jumped ship from NBC to CBS after being passed over for the "Tonight Show" hosting gig, Leno found himself facing much more formidable competition than he or Carson (who tended to favor Letterman) had encountered, sparking a hotly contested battle for viewers. The ratings war waged on neck-and-neck throughout the 1990s, but eventually, while critics tended to favor Letterman's edgier, snarkier show, Leno's broader, middle-of-the-road populist approach gradually emerged as the consistent ratings winner, bolstered by NBC's stronger prime-time lineup lead-in and promotional platform. However, in exchange for mainstream popularity, Leno—a notorious workhorse who took few days off and usually performed in clubs and concert halls when he did—seemed to lose much of his own distinctive brand of comedic bite with each successive season. In 2004, Leno announced his planned retirement from "The Tonight Show" in 2009 and planned to hand his hosting duties over to his NBC late night cohort Conan O'Brien.
As an offshoot of his tenure as the host of "The Tonight Show" and his place in the pop culture pantheon, Leno has appeared as himself in many feature films over the years, including “Dave” (1993), “Mad City” (1997), “Space Cowboys” (2000), “Juwanna Man” (2002) and “Mr. 3000” (2004). After his announced retirement, Leno began to branch out. He had a small voice role as a fire hydrant in “Robots” (2005), an animated feature about a futuristic world inhabited by robots, including an idealistic young genius, Rodney Copperbottom (voiced by Ewan McGregor), who wants to make the world a better place for his fellow mechanical brothers and sisters, but faces opposition from an evil corporation. Leno then gave voice to Fast Tony, a con artist armadillo, in “Ice Age: The Meltdown” (2006), the wildly successful sequel to “Ice Age” (2002) that that reunited Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo), Manny the wooly mammoth (Ray Romano), Diego the saber-toothed tiger (Denis Leary) and Scrat the prehistoric squirrel (Chris Wedge) in a quest to find Manny a mate despite possibly being the last mammoth in their rapidly melting world.
Also Credited As: James Douglas Muir LenoBorn: on 04/28/1950 in New Rochelle, New YorkJob Titles: TV host, Comedian, Actor, Rolls Royce auto mechanic, DeliverymanFamily
Brother: Patrick Leno.
Father: Angelo Leno. died on August 16, 1994 at age 83 in Andover, Massachusetts
Mother: Cathryn Leno. born in Scotland c. 1911; died on June 26, 1993 in Andover, Massachusetts
Emerson College, Boston, Massachusetts, speech therapy, BA, 1973
Andover High School, Andover, Massachusetts
1973 Moved to Los Angeles
1977 First notable film appearance, "Silver Bears"
1977 Made first appearance on "The Tonight Show"
1977 Was a regular on the short-lived CBS variety show, "The Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. Show"
1986 Hosted (and produced) his first hour-long comedy special on TV: "Jay Leno and the American Dream" on Showtime
1986 Named one of the two permanent guest hosts of "The Tonight Show"
1986 Played a sold-out engagement at New York's Carnegie Hall
1986 Signed an exclusive contract with NBC
1988 Named exclusive guest host of "The Tonight Show"
1991 Announcement made that Leno would replace Johnny Carson as host of "The Tonight Show" after the latter retired on May 22, 1992
1992 Took over as host of "The Tonight Show"
1993 Signed five-year $40 million contract with NBC to continuing hosting "The Tonight Show"
1998 Signed five-year contract extension with NBC for a reported $100 million
2000 Received star on Hollywood Walk of Fame (April 27)
2001 Extended contract to host "The Tonight Show" through 2005
2003 Received a People's Choice nomination for favorite talk-show host
2004 Received a People's Choice nomination for Favorite Talk-show host
2004 Signed a new deal with NBC, worth $100 million, that will keep him at the helm of "The Tonight Show" through at least 2009
Emceed campus talent shows while in college, and performed stand-up comedy in local nightclubs for extra money
Got a job writing comedy material for Jimmie Walker in the hit TV comedy, "Good Times"
Raised in Andover, Massachusetts
Was a warm-up act for such performers as Johnny Mathis, John Denver and Tom Jones
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