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Difference Between Jay Leno and David Letterman

Jay Leno vs David Letterman

Jay Leno and David Letterman are fixtures on late-night TV. Both men are hosts of two of the popular late-night talk shows. Their shows and their tenure are also considered to be the two second longest in the history of late-night TV.

Jay Leno is the host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show.” He became the host after the retirement of Johnny Carson, the show’s former host. He left the show in 2009 to pursue his own show called “The Jay Leno Show” but came back in 2010 after the show’s cancellation (due to host controversy). During his absence, Leno was replaced in “The Tonight Show” by Conan O’Brien.

On the other hand, David Letterman is the host of the “Late Show” with David Letterman. The “Late Show” is broadcast on CBS but was previously aired on NBC.

Both the “Late Show” and “The Tonight Show” compete with each other for ratings and audience share. The rivalry between the two hosts (and in extension, the two shows) has been going on for almost two decades.

David Letterman and Jay Leno both started on “The Tonight Show” while Johnny Carson was still the show’s host. Both Leno and Letterman served as guest or replacement hosts for Carson when the latter did other hosting duties. Letterman was first as the replacement host for Carson.

Letterman was the favored candidate to be the replacement as the host of “The Tonight Show” when Carson retired. However, the role was given to Leno, and Letterman started the “Late Show.” The “Late Show” became “The Tonight Show’s” rival when the former moved to NBC’s rival network, CBS.

Jay Leno is currently 61 years old while Dave Letterman is 64. While Leno has one wife (Mavis), Letterman already has had two (Michelle Cook and Regina Lasko).

Leno started his career a year earlier than Letterman. Leno began in 1973 until the present.
In terms of awards, Letterman (and his show) received more awards than Leno. Letterman had 8 Emmys and 6 awards from the American Comedy Awards. In comparison, Leno bagged 2 Emmys.

Aside from his “Late Show,” Letterman also hosted the Oscars. In addition to being a talk show host, Letterman is also a TV and film producer. His company is called Worldwide Pants which produces TV shows (the “Late Show,” “Late Late Show” hosted by Craig Ferguson and “Everybody loves Raymond”) and films like “Strangers with Candy” and “Knights of Prosperity.” He also has a record label called Clear Entertainment/C.E. Music and he co-owns the auto racing team Rahal Letterman Racing (RLR).
Unlike Leno, Letterman has been named as #45 of TV Guide’s “50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time.”
Leno, on the other hand, is an avid collector of vintage vehicles. His collection includes 100 automobiles and 90 motorcycles. He also writes a column that involves his collection, automobile restoration, and other automobile-related matters.


1.Both Letterman and Leno are hosts of late-night TV programs. Letterman hosts the “Late Show” with David Letterman (CBS) while Leno is the host of “The Tonight Show” (NBC). Both shows are in constant competition over ratings and audience share.
2.Leno and Letterman shared a common background as replacement hosts for “The Tonight Show” during the absence of Johnny Carson. When Carson retired, Letterman was expected to be Carson’s successor, but the role went to Jay Leno instead. Letterman was given the “Late Show” on NBC before it moved to CBS.
3.Jay Leno started his career 12 months earlier than Letterman. However, he left “The Tonight Show” in 2009 to start his own show. When it failed, he came back to “The Tonight Show.” On the other hand, Letterman has been the constant host of the “Late Show” from the very beginning.
4.Aside from being a television host, Leno is an avid automobile and motorcycle collector. He also writes columns about automobiles. Letterman, meanwhile, is also a TV and film producer, owner of a record label, and co-owner of an auto racing team.

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