Jay Leno goes home

Jay Leno takes 60 Minutes on a tour of Andover, Mass., and shows his high school, his childhood home, and the McDonald’s where he once flipped burgers

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Jay Leno and Steve Kroft
CBS News
By Evie Salomon

As Jay Leno approached his final weeks in the chair at "The Tonight Show," he decided to make a trip back to his hometown of Andover, Mass., to show 60 Minutes' Steve Kroft and producer Ruth Streeter where his roots are. As far as anyone knew, it was the first time Leno had agreed to bring reporters to his childhood home, his high school, and the McDonald's where he once flipped burgers.

The visit provided insight into Leno's early development and his style as a comedian, says Streeter. "Jay is a difficult person to get underneath because he is a performer and because he's been interviewed so many times," Streeter tells 60 Minutes Overtime. "Andover is so defining for him."

Andover is the home of the Phillips Academy, one of the country's top boarding schools, but Leno was a "townie," he tells Kroft.

"I would often get beat up by the preppies," Leno says. A rite of passage in Andover was getting "punched in the face by George Bush or somebody famous."

While visiting the public high school Leno attended, the 60 Minutes team learned that he began to tell jokes as a teenager to offset his dyslexia. It was only when an English teacher took Leno aside that he found inspiration in school.

"She said, 'You know, I always see you telling stories and making jokes. Why don't you take my creative writing class?'" Leno recalls. The teacher suggested that Leno write his stories down and then read them aloud to the class.

"That was the first time in my life I think I really focused on something," he now says.

The 60 Minutes team also tagged along as Leno stopped in at the McDonald's restaurant where once flipped burgers. He donned a worker's hat and delivered Happy Meals through the drive-through window, telling customers, "I'm not on The Tonight Show anymore--I had to come back here."

The stop at the fast-food restaurant wasn't just a stunt. It's the place where Leno won first prize while performing a comedy routine for McDonalds's regional talent show.

"It was the first time Jay made money telling jokes," says Streeter. "It was a big deal for him."

Word spread of Leno's arrival in town and soon there were more people waiting to take a photo with Leno at McDonald's than to order a Big Mac. Leno graciously obliged, says Streeter.

"A lot of celebrities don't want to mix with their fans-- Jay thrives on it," says the producer. "He puts up no barriers, there's no celebrity air about him, and he goes out of his way to connect. That's what makes him such a good comedian."

Editor's Note: This segment was originally published Jan. 26, 2014

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