David Letterman proved old grudges die hard with a series of stinging comments and observations aimed at Jay Leno on The Late Show Thursday, as he slammed the NBC host for craving attention, playing dirty and creating a phony “nice guy” image.
Letterman joked Leno needs to be the center of attention, before flashing a graphic of a figure of Leno replacing the Statue of Liberty. He also pointed out that Jay is the clichéd All-American guy (think baseball and Apple pie), before comparing Leno’s overtaking of The Tonight Show from Conan O’Brien to the pillaging of Native Americans for land.
But the best bitterness from Dave came when he settled in at his desk, where he deadpanned that Leno is “a humanitarian” always getting good publicity for “stopping to fix a flat or loan someone some gas.” He said that he believed Leno, a good guy, will forfeit the coveted 11:35 p.m. EST time slot back to O’Brien because “it’s the right thing to do.”
The battles between Leno and Letterman for Johnny Carson’s chair are well-chronicled in the 1994 book, The Late Shift, and the 1996 film of the same name.