The LATE NIGHT host — and SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE alum — will take over NBC’s historic TONIGHT SHOW on February 17, when the show returns to New York City.
We caught up with Jimmy in Los Angeles recently to get all the details.
Jay Leno had great rating success booking people like Hugh Grant and Lindsay Lohan — who were involved in scandals. Have you thought about how you are going to approach that kind of thing?
We have that now. I always leave it open. Whoever comes on my show, I will make them look good. That is my job. That is what I will do. If you want to set the record straight we can do that, too. But my job is to make you look good. I have done that in the past. We had Tiger (Woods) on the show and we went through all of the double entendras of golf and sex without making one dirty joke and it made him laugh at himself — we’re talking about balls, holes, strokes, foursomes… That is our thing, to make it fun.
Did take a long time for you to get comfortable conducting interviews?
It does take a long time because you are afraid… It is like any conversation. You have got to go to parties before you know how to talk to people. It took me a little while. But I am much more comfortable doing it now.
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Did you learn anything from Conan O’Brien’s experience with The Tonight Show?
I just hate to even think about that. I wasn’t in the position. I was more concerned about my show than his show at the time. That is kind of where I am.
Why did you pick Will Smith as your first guest?
He is a big Hollywood star and he always brings it every time he goes on a talk show. I just think he is very entertaining and it is a good mix with him and U2.
What can you tell us about your new studio?I went to a thing at Lincoln Center and I was just floored. So if you have ever been to Lincoln Center, that should inspire what this will look like. We got the same guys to do the acoustics, these guys from California. And boy, oh, boy, these guys are scientists. They are so awesome. It is almost like when you wear those Bose noise canceling headphones and you turn them on and feel like something different is happening.
Will it look like a traditional TONIGHT SHOW set with a wooden desk and the city skyline behind you?
Kind of. But it is a work of art. Eugene Lee designed it, who did a lots of SNL and Sweeney Todd and Wicked. This is his pièce de résistance
Is the studio bigger?
It is bigger. We fit in I think another 50 to 100 seats. It is the same studio Johnny (Carson) was in.
When do you think you might first bring your show to LA?
I am not planning on it yet. But I always loved when Johnny used to come to L.A. — even New Yorkers in general. You just see those pale people walking around. They love the weather and all the restaurants. I loved when Ed (McMahon) would have those stories about going out to restaurants. So I can’t wait to do it. I am going to definitely do it more than once a year.
You are friends with Jimmy Kimmel. What has he said to you about becoming his competition?
I haven’t talked to him yet. I think we have a couple more weeks where we can talk and still be friendly.
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