Jay Leno on Show Business: “Eventually You’re Going to Get Screwed”

Jay Leno attends an event on June 21, 2012 in Los Angeles
Jay Leno says showbiz pays well because "eventually you're going to get screwed" -- plus, he weighs in on Jimmy Kimmel's insults and public feuds with fellow late night comics David Letterman and Conan O'Brien Brian To/WireImage.com

There's no business like show business. Working in Hollywood comes with a lot of perks — money, fame, more money — but as Jay Leno knows all too well, the bigger you are, the harder you fall. In his interview with CBS' 60 Minutes, which aired Sunday, Jan. 26, the departing Tonight Show host joked that stars' massive paydays are just meant to cushion the blow when they inevitably find themselves out of a job (and out of the spotlight). 

"I always tell new people in show business, I say, 'Look, show business pays you a lot of money, because eventually you're gonna get screwed,'" he explained. "'And when you get screwed, you will have this pile of money off to the side already.'"

Leno (who has made hundreds of millions of dollars through the years) isn't exactly getting screwed — but he is getting pushed out to make room for fellow comedian Jimmy Fallon. After more than two decades, the NBC star will host his last-ever Tonight Show on Feb. 6; 11 days later, Fallon will take over as host of the late-night staple.

"I get it, you know?" Leno told 60 Minutes' Steve Kroft. "Johnny [Carson] was 66 when he left. I would be 64 when I leave. And that's about right, you know? I really like Jimmy Fallon. I think he's terrific. You know, when I see him do a dance number with, you know, Justin Timberlake or somebody, I go, 'I can't do that.'"

In fact, Leno has a lot of respect for his successor. In a separate interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he said Fallon's type of comedy reminds him a lot of Carson's. "I genuinely like Jimmy and I think that he's the guy most like Johnny was when he started, silly and very musical," Leno told THR.

Given that this is his second time losing The Tonight Show to a younger, hipper host — he was briefly forced to hand over hosting duties to Conan O'Brien in 2009 — does he have any resentment? "You can't be [resentful]," he said. "What does anger get you? What does negativity get you? It doesn't get you anything."

That mindset is why Leno says he never fought back against insults from fellow comedians O'Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, and David Letterman, who skewered him when O'Brien's deal to take over The Tonight Show went south. "I don't get into public feuds with other comics," he said.

"That doesn't serve the purpose. Rich people whining and complaining? Shut up," he reasoned. "You make more money than 99 percent of the population and you're complaining and whining. My job is to go out there and be a comedian. That's what I do."

"[Kimmel] comes from radio, where you pick a fight with the other guy," he added. "I don't do that. It's fine. There's plenty of room for everybody."

As for O'Brien? "I don't want to comment on anybody else," he told THR. "Then it looks like I'm commenting on what he's chosen to do. It's hard because I don't…I sort of let myself be the punching bag [in that situation]. It's fine. You do what you got to do."

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