You can bet that Jay Leno was among the millions who tuned in for Conan O'Brien's Tonight Show swan song Friday. Not that he was ready to talk about it last night (hey, if your name's not Oprah, he's not chatting).
E! News caught up with Leno after his regular hourlong standup gig last night in Hermosa Beach, when the the incoming host of the Tonight Show was put on the spot about whether he would once again rise to the ratings challenge when pitted against Letterman next month.
"I don't know," Leno said. "We'll see what happens. I'm not confident of anything."
A lesson he learned the easy way.
However, when asked if he would continue to verbally spar with Letterman via monologues as they did in a revved-up fashion these past few weeks, Leno both said he would and denied he ever had.
It's that sort of backtracking, tightrope-walking that got Jay the job in the first second place.
"Well, if he wants…whatever Dave wants," Leno said of their renewed rivalry. "Whatever it is."
As for Leno's foray into the nasty, more personal side of things, he seemed downright taken aback at the suggestion.
"Dave's been doing that for years. It's fine…I told a couple jokes. We're comedians. Hello?
"No, not at all," he went on, responding to another critique that he had gotten too personal when joking about Letterman's troubles. "You gotta pay attention!"
Plenty of people were paying attention inside Leno's show, however, in which the denim-loving funnyman talked Jake Gyllenhaal and Leonardo DiCaprio ("not macho men"), Paris Hilton (apparently making major strides in outreach for the "Make a Bitch Foundation") as well as some of the current crop of reality trainwrecks.
Not featured in his set list, however, was Conan O'Brien.
Possibly to avoid an awkward encounter later this week. Leno will be sitting down with longtime pal Oprah Winfrey on Thursday to tell his side of the story and ostensibly win back the favor of stay-at-home moms. While an offer was also extended to CoCo to join in the show, it's not yet clear whether he intends to do so.
Incidentally, while his nondisparagement clause with NBC may put a hamper on any discussions getting into the nitty-gritty of the shakeup, any such appearances, in theory, are well within O'Brien's rights: he's only disallowed from hosting a show, not appearing on one.
In which case, we suggest holding out for a guest spot on Letterman. Talk about your must-see TV.
—Additional reporting by Dan Wally and Nicole Isaacs
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