Acclaimed TV late night show host, admired stand-up comedian, best-selling children’s book author, much-in-demand corporate speaker, lovable TV and movie voice-over artist, pioneering car builder and mechanic, and philanthropist…it’s no wonder that Jay Leno is widely characterized as “the hardest working man in show business.”
And all this hard work certainly paid off handsomely: Jay Leno’s late night television ratings domination included two decades as the host of the #1-rated “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” – he never lost a year in which he served as host.
Leno has now taken his considerable talents and married them with his intense passion and unparalleled knowledge of cars as host of the CNBC series “Jay Leno’s Garage” now in its second season. “Jay Leno’s Garage” explores the world of cars, never forgetting that it’s the people behind the wheel who provide the real stories. The series debuted in October 2015 and delivered CNBC’s most-watched first season in network history. New episodes of “Jay Leno’s Garage” return Wednesday, November 9th at 10PM ET/PT on CNBC.
The show is an outgrowth of jaylenosgarage.com, which Leno produces and which has an international following on the Web and which has garnered several Emmy Awards and nominations for Outstanding Special Class–Short-Format Nonfiction Programs.
Leno has been honored by the Television Academy with an Emmy for “Outstanding Comedy, Variety or Music Series.” “The Tonight Show” has also taken home the trophy for “Favorite Late Night Show” in the annual TV Guide Awards determined by voting viewers. Leno is also the recipient of the People’s Choice Award and other honors, including the Harris Poll selection as most popular star on television. Other personal highlights include the Hasty Pudding Award at Harvard University, an honor whose sole prior comedy/talk host recipient was Johnny Carson; receiving a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, and being the first person to drive the pace car of all major NASCAR events.
It was in May 1992 when Leno followed in the footsteps of legendary NBC late-night hosts Steve Allen, Jack Paar and Johnny Carson as “Tonight Show” host. Pitted against another television superstar David Letterman in the ll:35 p.m. hour, Leno became the ratings leader of late night within two years and never looked back.
Prior to becoming host, Leno had been the exclusive guest host on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” since September 1987. He first appeared as a guest on the show March 2, 1977, and he made numerous additional appearances on the show, as well as NBC’s former program “Late Night with David Letterman.”
An indefatigable performer, Leno loves to test his humor live on audiences across the nation, performing over 100-150 live appearances in nightclubs, theaters and stadiums each year. He has been touted as one of the nicest people in show business and the hardest-working — a winning tandem for the man who says, “Anyone can have a life – careers are hard to come by!”
His “everyman”-style and personality have helped him earn millions of fans worldwide, especially in the regions where people relate to his personable style and work ethic. In addition to traversing the U.S., he has entertained in various countries, including performing for military troops associated with the wars in Afghanistan and Bosnia. He remains passionate about performing in front of live audiences, including the military, and appears regularly in Las Vegas, on college campuses around the United States and in other venues.
Moreover, he is committed to using his amalgam of talents to help those less fortunate. Each year, he serves as Master of Ceremonies and does numerous benefit performances, including shows for those whose lives were devastated by the 9/11 tragedy, the tsunami in Thailand, hurricanes in the gulf, and the severe economic downturn in Detroit. He leads the annual Love Ride in California to benefit numerous humanitarian organizations serving people with autism, muscular dystrophy, and Special Olympics, among many others.
He has also served as honorary campaign chairman for several years for the Entertainment Industry Foundation, Hollywood’s charitable arm, and he has assisted the Gender Apartheid campaign led by wife Mavis together with the Feminist Majority, to free Afghan women of Taliban tyranny, an effort for which Mavis and The Feminist Majority were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Leno’s children’s book “If Roast Beef Could Fly” (from Simon & Schuster) hit bookstores in April 2004 and immediately was a New York Times Bestseller. His follow-up kids book “How to be the Funniest Kid In Your Class” was similarly successful. His other book, “Leading with My Chin” (from HarperCollins), hit the bookstores in 1998. He also has published four versions of “Headlines,” the compilation of books and desk calendars featuring his favorite funny newspaper headlines, and “Police Blotter,” a book with more humorous newspaper clips involving police stories (book proceeds go to various charities).
When he is not performing, writing, doing charitable work, Leno keeps busy doing voice-over work in such movies as “Cars” and “Igor” and the hit-TV show “The Fairly Oddparents” (Nickelodeon), where the character “The Crimson Chin” – a superhero with a chin with superpowers – was inspired by Leno’s own noted jawline. He also is a much-in-demand corporate speaker for companies including General Motors, and he is a monthly columnist in “Popular Mechanics.” And in his “spare” time (as if he has any), he enjoys working on his collection of classic cars and motorcycles. In fact, he has built a number of cars, including an acclaimed eco-car in his eco-friendly green garage.
Leno was born in New Rochelle, New York, and raised in Andover, Massachusetts. He and his wife, Mavis, live in Los Angeles.