Jay Leno says he wanted to end his Tonight Show career with one big exit interview, so he contacted Steve Kroft, the correspondent who was there when Leno got his start.
“He called,” says Kroft, “and he said, ‘I'm gonna give one interview… I started this thing with you and with 60 Minutes, and I'd like to bookend it."
Twenty-two years ago, Kroft interviewed Leno just as he was inheriting “The Tonight Show” job from 30-year veteran Johnny Carson.
A lot has changed since 1992, says Kroft, but very little has changed about Leno.
While reporting this week’s follow-up story on Leno, Kroft found himself with a case of déjà vu. He followed Leno home to talk with his wife Mavis, to the green room of the Hermosa Comedy & Magic Club where Leno does a weekly stand up show, and to Leno’s gleaming “garage” where he houses his personal collection of cars and motorcycles.
“He's a creature of habit,” Kroft told 60 Minutes Overtime’s Ann Silvio. “I gave him a hard time about that, that there's been no emotional development, but his life has changed very little. He tells jokes, he writes jokes, he goes to his antique car garage, and he watches television with his wife, Mavis. That's what he does.”
On the 60 Minutes broadcast, Kroft asked Leno about what happened in 2010 when he was unexpectedly fired from "The Tonight Show" and replaced by Conan O’Brien -- and how he feels about stepping aside for Jimmy Fallon today.
“He's done everything that NBC has asked him to, and they've tried to fire him twice,” says Kroft. “And now they're forcing him out while he's a solid No. 1.”
In one interview exchange, Kroft asked Leno to “cut the crap” and answer honestly whether he had any resentment about being shown the door at NBC.
“When you make the kind of money you make in show biz, just shut up,” Leno told Kroft. “Don't complain.”
Leno says he plans to return to the small stage as a stand-up comedian on the road.“Not bitter, not upset, NBC has been more than fair,” Leno told Kroft. “These are tough things and you know, you have to step back and go, ‘Look, you're getting a little old for this now.’ And that's where I am. And so, we'll try something else.”