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Not one to hold his tongue, the host of Jimmy Kimmel Live! — which is moving to its new 11:35 p.m. time slot Monday — targets The Tonight Show host’s comedy cred in a new interview in Rolling Stone. His dislike for Leno began during the 1992 showdown at NBC, when Leno won the Tonight Show job over David Letterman. Kimmel grew up a massive fan of Letterman‘s and felt Leno had stolen the show out from under his hero.
Years later, Kimmel explains, he had gotten to know and even like Leno. When Leno was in negotiations with ABC to start his own hourlong 11:30 p.m. show there, he courted Kimmel with a series of friendly, thrice-weekly phone calls, as he would need the Live! host to give up his midnight time slot to make the new show happen. Once the deal fell through, Leno never called him back. “That made me feel stupid,” he said.
And so, the past few years have seen Kimmel take swipe after swipe at Leno, from his dressing up as a parody of the Tonight Show host in 2010 during the Conan O’Brien saga to recent shots he’s taken in various publications (including saying “F— him” in an interview with Bill Carter).
During a marijuana-enhanced car ride, Kimmel and his Rolling Stone interviewer pass by the L.A.-area Comedy and Magic Club, where Leno does a routine every Sunday. They don’t stop to watch, as Kimmel promises it wouldn’t be worth their time.
“Leno hasn’t been a good stand-up in 20 years,” he cracks. Later, he explains that Leno used to be funny but has lost his way.
“As a comedian, you can’t not have disdain for what he’s done,: Kimmel says. “He totally sold out. He was a master chef who opened a Burger King.”
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