Leno talks about new "Tonight Show," Conan, Letterman and Bobby Jindal

by Brandon Richards bio | email

KINDER, LA (KPLC-TV) - While he was in Southwest Louisiana performing standup Friday at the Coushatta Casino, Jay Leno sat down with KPLC to talk about the future of his new "Tonight Show" program, which will debut on NBC on March 1st, as well as other topics, including Conan O'Brien, David Letterman and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.

Leno said he still has not spoken with O'Brien since NBC announced it was ending "The Jay Leno Show" and moving Leno back into his 11:35ET/10:35CT time slot, a decision O'Brien did not agree with. As a result of the network's decision, O'Brien left "The Tonight Show" after serving just seven months as host. NBC announced immediately after O'Brien's exit that Leno would return to host "The Tonight Show."

After O'Brien decided to leave "The Tonight Show," many fans of O'Brien, referring to themselves as Team Coco, blamed Leno for somehow driving O'Brien out as host.

"If those people (Conan fans) had been watching Conan's show, this wouldn't have happened," said Leno. "It just comes down to ratings. That's really what it is."

Some have wondered why Leno didn't choose to quit or retire from NBC. Leno said quitting was never an option for him.

"People say 'Oh well, you should step aside.' Well it doesn't work that way. Somebody's always waiting to take your job in America," Leno said. "If you go to a baseball game and the guy strikes out, you can't be mad at the next guy who comes up to bat. It's not his fault."

Leno said he hopes he and O'Brien will have a meeting at some point, but he's not sure if that will ever happen.

"It would be nice if there was [a meeting], but we'll see," said Leno.

Earlier this month, Leno appeared alongside Oprah Winfrey and David Letterman in a Super Bowl ad. Leno said he and Letterman go way back and no one should jump to conclusions about their relationship because of their legendary late-night ratings war.

"Two fighters can get in the ring and beat the hell out of each other and then shake hands afterward, and that's basically what this is," Leno explained.

When the new "Tonight Show" debuts after the Olympics, Leno said things will pick up where they left off in May 2009, but he revealed he will add some new material.

"We're going to keep the elements that people like, Headlines, Jaywalking, stuff like that," said Leno. "We learned some things from the other show. We'll bring some new comedy elements too. We got some new writers and some new people so hopefully it'll be kind of a better version of what we use to do."

This week, "Tonight Show" bandleader and Leno's longtime sidekick, Kevin Eubanks, announced plans to leave the "Tonight Show." Leno said Eubanks wants to pursue other musical projects and that Eubanks will stick around for a while until the show finds a replacement.

Before Leno took the stage Friday night at the Coushatta Pavilion, KPLC also asked him about Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Leno noted Jindal had appeared on his show and seemed to be doing "a hell of a job," especially when compared to another Louisiana governor Leno met, Edwin Edwards. Leno joked about the former governor, who is now in prison, coming to visit him one day with a couple of women attached to each of his arms.

NBC has already started airing ads for the new "Tonight Show" with Jay Leno during the Olympics.

"The Tonight Show" returns to the air with Jay Leno as host on March 1st at 10:35 p.m. on KPLC.

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