Jay Leno criticizes claim that he “deliberately sabotaged” Conan O’Brien’s performance on “The Tonight Show”: “It doesn’t work that way”

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Setting the record straight. Jay Leno responded to rumors that he had a hand in ending Conan O’Brien’s short-lived tenure as host of The Tonight Show.

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“It doesn’t work that way. You’re trying to do your best, but it didn’t work,” Leno, 72, said on Sunday, July 31, during an appearance on Bill Maher’s podcast “Club Random.” The New York native hosted the cult talk show from 1992 to 2009 and again from 2010 to 2014 after the departure of 59-year-old host Conan. He told the 66-year-old Maher that he had never done anything to “deliberately sabotage” his successor.

Although Leno has no regrets about O’Brien, during the interview he expressed his condolences to Jimmy Kimmel. When host Jay Leno’s Garage was about to leave The Tonight Show in 2014, he was thinking about moving to ABC, which would push Jimmy Kimmel Live! for a later time interval. He warned the 54-year-old Man Show graduate about possible changes, but never said when it didn’t work.

“I suppose I should have called Jimmy and explained everything to him again, but I didn’t,” said the member of the Television Hall of Fame. “I do not know why I did not do it. I just didn’t know. I thought he’d probably figure it out. But I think maybe it hurt him, and I apologize to him for that.”

Kimmel addressed the drama between the two “Tonight Show” alumni, congratulating O’Brien on completing his final episode of TBS’s “Conan” in June 2021.

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“To Conan, Andy Richter and everyone associated with this show,” he said during a late—night monologue. “We look forward to what you have planned next on HBO Max. And I also want to congratulate Jay Leno on his new timeslot on TBS.”

O’Brien often took the straight path when asked about Leno’s drama. During the May 2017 issue of “Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen,” a Harvard graduate was asked what he would do if he ran into the host of “You Bet Your Life” on an airplane.

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“I’m watching a movie, my headphones are on, and I don’t think we ever talk at all,” he told host Andy Cohen, noting that he would watch “Stooges.” “I’m so happy that I can’t see who’s next to me and I’m missing a nice chance to talk to this wonderful guy.”

After Leno’s last episode of The Tonight Show aired in February 2014, Jimmy Fallon took over as host.

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