“I’m not having a bad time at 10 o’clock now,” the NBC star, 59, tells the trade journal Broadcasting & Cable. “I look at this as a job, and now I’m faced with a challenge, and it’s a challenge I find difficult but interesting.”
“You don’t take it personally because there’s really no fun in an upbeat story,” he adds, remarking on what’s been relentlessly negative press. “The fun is, they did this and let’s watch it fall. I enjoy being the underdog.”
“Would I have preferred to stay at 11:30? Yeah, sure. I would have preferred that,” he says. “I think it’s too soon to say whether I regret anything or not Yes, I get a certain amount of satisfaction from pounding my head against the wall.”
As for the common complaints that his jokes have been too tame, and his format basically a clone of his late-night show, Leno puts the burden squarely on his own shoulders.
“I don’t blame anybody else; my name’s on the product, so I take 95 percent of the blame,” he says. “I do kind of chuckle when people compare a show you do every night to a special that’s on once or twice a year on HBO. We do a 14-minute monologue five nights a week; are all the jokes going to be gems? No. But they do okay.”
Wouldn’t Swap with Letterman
As for erstwhile rival David Letterman’s current imbroglio involving blackmail and sex, Leno says the CBS host is an even worse place than he is.
“I wouldn’t trade places with Dave now for anything!” he says. “I don’t think he’s getting a free pass.”
Leno also said Letterman would weather the storm. “He’s not being a hypocrite; Dave has never set himself up as [a model citizen],” he says. “If it were me, it would kill me. I’m the guy who’s been married 29 years. But Dave has never pretended to be Mr. Moral America, he’s never set himself up that way … I don’t think it will have a big effect at all.”