James Douglas Muir Leno is an American comedian, actor, writer, producer and television host. After doing stand-up comedy for years, he became the host of NBC’s The Tonight Show with Jay Leno from 1992 to 2009. Beginning in September 2009, Leno started a primetime talk show, titled The Jay Leno Show, which aired weeknights at 10:00PM. Take a look below for 35 more fun and fascinating facts about Jay Leno.
1. Leno was born April 28, 1950, in New Rochelle, New York.
2. His homemaker mother, Catherine, was born in Greenock, Scotland, and came to the United States at age 11.
3. His father, Angelo (1910–1994), was an insurance salesman who was born in New York, to immigrants from Flumeri, Italy.
4. Leno grew up in Andover, Massachusetts, and graduated from Andover High School.
5. Leno obtained a bachelor’s degree in speech therapy from Emerson College, where he started a comedy club in 1973.
6. His older brother, Patrick (May 12, 1940 – October 6, 2002), was a Vietnam War veteran who worked as an attorney.
7. Leno made his first appearance on The Tonight Show on March 2, 1977, performing a comedy routine.
8. During the 1970s, Leno appeared in minor roles in several television series and films, first in the 1976 episode “J.J. in Trouble” of Good Times and the same year in the pilot of Holmes & Yo-Yo.
9. After an uncredited appearance in the 1977 film Fun with Dick and Jane, he played more prominent roles in 1978 in American Hot Wax and Silver Bears.
10. Other films and television series from that period include Almost Heaven (1978), “Going Nowhere” (1979) from One Day at a Time, Americathon (1979), Polyester (1981), “The Wild One” (1981) from Alice, and both “Feminine Mistake” (1979) and “Do the Carmine” (1983) from Laverne & Shirley.
11. Leno’s only starring film role was the 1989 direct-to-video Collision Course, opposite Pat Morita. He also appeared numerous times on Late Night with David Letterman.
12. Starting in 1986, Leno was a regular substitute host for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show.
13. In 1992, he replaced Carson as host amid controversy with David Letterman, who had been hosting Late Night with David Letterman since 1982 (aired after The Tonight Show), and whom many—including Carson himself—had expected to be Carson’s successor.
14. Leno has been married to Mavis Leno since 1980; the couple have no children.
15. In 1993, during his first season as host of The Tonight Show, Leno’s mother died at the age of 82 and in the following year, his father died at the age of 84.
16. Leno’s older brother Patrick Leno, a Vietnam veteran and graduate of Yale Law School, died in 2002 at the age of 62 as a result of complications from cancer.
17. He is known for his prominent jaw, which has been described as mandibular prognathism.
18. In the book Leading with My Chin, he says he is aware of surgery that could reset his mandible, but does not wish to endure a prolonged healing period with his jaws wired shut.
19. Leno is dyslexic.
20. He claims to need only four or five hours of sleep each night.
21. Leno does not drink or smoke, nor does he gamble.
22. He spends much of his free time visiting car collections or working in his private garage.
23. Leno has claimed that he has not spent any of the money he earned from The Tonight Show. Instead, he lives off his money from his stand-up routines.
24. Leno reportedly earned $32 million in 2005.
25. In 2014, he received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Emerson College where he also delivered the Commencement speech.
26. In 2001, he and his wife donated $100,000 to the Feminist Majority Foundation’s campaign to stop gender apartheid in Afghanistan, to educate the public regarding the plight of women in Afghanistan under Taliban rule.
27. Mavis Leno is on the board of the Feminist Majority.
28. In 2009, he donated $100,000 to a scholarship fund at Salem State College (now Salem State University) in honor of Lennie Sogoloff, who gave Leno his start at his jazz club, Lennie’s-on-the-Turnpike.
29. In August 2012, Leno auctioned his Fiat 500, which was sold for $385,000 with all the proceeds going to a charity that helps wounded war veterans recover by providing them with temporary housing.
30. Since 1985, Leno has been the Grand Marshal for the Love Ride, a motorcycle charity event which since its founding in 1984 has raised nearly $14 million for charities benefiting muscular dystrophy research, Autism Speaks, and in 2001, the September 11 attacks recovery.
31. Leno owns approximately 286 vehicles (169 cars and 117 motorbikes).
32. He also has a website and a TV program called Jay Leno’s Garage, which contains video clips and photos of his car collection in detail, as well as other vehicles of interest to him.
33. Leno’s Garage Manager is Bernard Juchli.
34. Among his collection are two Doble steam cars, a sedan and a roadster that were owned by Howard Hughes, the fifth Duesenberg Model X known to survive, and one of nine remaining 1963 Chrysler Turbine Cars.
35. Hosting the 2014 Genesis Prize award ceremony in Jerusalem, Leno made jokes mocking then-President Barack Obama and then-Secretary of State John Kerry, accusing Obama of “trying to break” the U.S.’s relationship with Israel.