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    Jay's Tonight Show Turns 15

    Jay Leno has been making Headlines for close to 15 years now.

    The 57-year-old comedian will mark his 15th anniversary as host of The Tonight Show Friday, on what will be his 3,376th episode since taking over for Johnny Carson on May 25, 1992.

    Helping to make it a politically charged affair will be Dennis Miller, who's slated to appear along with musical guest Dwight Yoakam.

    While the episode will feature a celebratory montage of some of the more momentous moments of Leno's tenure, fans can also search for their favorite highlights on nbc.com and piece together their own promo clip reel.

    (We wonder if anyone's tracking how many times the words "hugh grant" get typed into the search field.)

    Leno—who, along with every other top comedian from the past 40 years, got a major career boost by appearing as a guest on The Tonight Show—became Carson's permanent guest host in 1987 before being crowned the late-night titan's permanent successor. The funnyman has only missed one night since—in 2003, when he swapped jobs with Today show host Katie Couric for a day.

    Of course, a few million disgruntled David Letterman fans who were ticked off that Dave wasn't handed the keys to the castle followed the former NBC personality to CBS, where the Late Show with David Letterman has aired opposite The Tonight Show with Jay Leno since Aug. 30, 1993.

    Leno won a bunch of them back, however, on July 10, 1995, when he scored the first interview with Hugh Grant after the Brit's arrest for picking up a Hollywood hooker.

    "What the hell were you thinking?" Leno, echoing the thought on every viewer's mind, asked the deliciously uncomfortable actor.

    The ratings shifted back in Leno's favor that night and he has relinquished the top spot only a handful of times since, although, again, Letterman lovers will attribute that to Leno's flair for pleasing the masses, while their man practices a more cerebral brand of comedy.

    A critique that Leno is fully aware of, of course.

    "A lot of times they're right, and a lot of times maybe they're wrong," he told USA Today this week. "When I first got this job, I thought my goal was to try to make everybody like you. But I realize on TV that you can't get everybody."

    "Dave's always been a gentleman. There's never, never been any bad words between us," minus a few on-camera barbs, Leno told the Associated Press. "It's fun to have an adversary, someone you consider, at the minimum, your equal."

    And since Grant's mea culpa, late-night television has become the place for celebrities to publicly apologize (Michael Richards, on Letterman), pop the question (Jason Sehorn and Angie Harmon, on Leno), make pregnancy or birth announcements, flash the host (Drew Barrymore, on Letterman) and, of course, launch a candidacy for California's governorship (the Governator, on Leno).

    Leno is just a little more equal than Letterman in the at-home audience's eyes, however. To date, Leno is averaging 5.8 million nightly viewers to Letterman's 4.2 million.

    Unlike his predecessor, though, Leno isn't going to wait around and see where the numbers are for his 30th anniversary. He's handing NBC's top late-night post over to Conan O'Brien in 2009.

    "The real trick is you never really do own these shows. You try not to screw it up for the next person," said Leno, who still schedules about 150 stand-up gigs a year. "It's like the America's Cup. You want to win it and you want to keep it number one, and when it's over you say, 'Whew, okay, your problem now.' "

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