Jay Leno—former The Tonight Show host—apparently still has a bone to pick with Jimmy Kimmel—fellow late-night colleague, host of Jimmy Kimmel Live!.
Jay Leno made an appearance on the Today show on Wednesday morning to promote Jay Leno’s Garage: his upcoming show on CNBC. When naming his former late-night show hosts that he still keeps in touch with (Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert, to name a few), he purposely left out Jimmy Kimmel.
Jimmy Kimmel and Jay Leno have a famous ongoing feud, but according to Jay Leno, it’s Jimmy Kimmel who’s the one with the problem. “[Kimmel] comes from radio… where you find an enemy and then you make up a phony battle,” says Leno. “I never had any problems with the guy, but he chose to go after me. And that’s fine. Welcome to show business.”
Jimmy Kimmel started in the radio industry while still in high school, and continued his presence in radio during his time at Arizona State University, where he became a popular and frequent caller to the KZZP-FM afternoon show. He landed his first paying job in 1989 as co-host of the The Me and Him Show at KZOK-FM in Seattle.
Although Jay Leno left The Tonight Show for good back in 2014, he still has a lot of opinions about it. “The most element you can have in doing a late night show is kindness. Because the show makes you arrogant,” says Leno. “I think that’s Jimmy Kimmel’s problem. I think he’s a talented guy, I think he’s funny. But he has a mean streak, and it comes across.” Jay Leno points out that many of Jimmy Kimmel’s segments are mean-spirited. “He does this thing where he takes Halloween candy from kids and the kids cry. What am I missing here? It’s funny I guess, but it’s mean-based. I think that’s why he’s not higher in the ratings.”
Leno also told the New York Daily News that, in the late-night host squad, he thought he and Jimmy Kimmel would be friends when they first met. However, Kimmel went in an obviously different direction. “It’s funny, I always thought Jimmy Kimmel was the [late night] guy that I was going to be close to,” he confessed. “We have similar blue-collar, Italian roots—but he chose to go after me so he could get into the whole Howard Stern camp and never really understood what it was all about.”
Howard Stern—most famous for his long-running Sirius XM Radio show—defended Jimmy Kimmel, saying that Jay Leno is putting his “enormous chin” where it doesn’t belong. “No one is more cruel than Jay Leno,” Stern said on his radio show. “Jimmy Kimmel is one of the nicest guys on the planet.”
Though Howard Stern isn’t a classic nice guy himself (his radio show is notorious for its controversial and sometimes shocking conversation topics, and Stern is often referred to as the “harsh judge” on the popular show America’s Got Talent), Leno also adds that Kimmel always takes things a step too far. “He comes from that radio vibe and it’s a typical radio versus standup comic situation. When you have to look an audience in the eye, you’re not quite as brave as when you’re just talking into a microphone. When an audience can react to what you’re saying and you see them doing that, it’s a little different.”
The whole Leno-Kimmel feud comes off as a tad childish—a classic high school-esque case of he-said-she-said—but you have to admit, it is entertaining.