Norton, who’s made countless appearances on the ‘Tonight Show,’ spoke a little bit about what the legendary late night host is like behind the scenes.
“He comes in the green room, and literally all this crap would be happening — all this stuff with lawyers — and he’s just like, ‘Hey man, what’s going on?’ and he’s very stoic,” Norton said.
“Is he always wearing the same clothes — like the denim shirt — is it really like that?” EB asked.
“It’s psychotic,” Norton said. “In the green room, you go in to have your shirt steamed and you see all of his clothes, and it’s thirty of the same thing. I’m like, that’s a guy who likes a routine, and he gets into a routine, and that’s one of the reasons, I guess, he did so well.”
Late night television is inherently different from daytime programming. The jokes are traditionally lighter, and Leno, love him or hate him, has made a living the last twenty-two years erring more on the corny side with his jokes.
“I think most comics, the comics that even don’t like him, you have to respect him for his work ethic,” Norton said. “And I never have an issue with someone who doesn’t like someone’s humor, because that’s a very, very personal — you like it, you don’t.”
Leno received a lot of flak in 2010, when he memorably un-retired, reclaiming his old time slot, a move which eventually nudged Conan O’Brien out of NBC’s late night rotation. Conan eventually took a deal to walk away which netted he and his staff $45 million, so it’s hard to hard to really feel bad for him.
“The comedians were killing him at one point, though, when the Conan thing was happening,” Norton said. “And that was kind of bugging me when the comics were all over him. I’m like, ‘C’mon, he treats us well.’ Like he’s the guy who actually comes into the green room and says hello to you, and doesn’t just give you a five-second handshake at the end and tell you to piss off. ”
“So does that imply the other guys don’t?” JP asked.
“No, I mean they’re not as interested, it seems,” Norton clarified. “Like, [Jimmy] Fallon’s a pretty genuine guy.”
“Letterman?” Lurch asked.
“Letterman’s colder, although, that’s just the way they do it over there,” Norton said. “The show is great, like doing the Ed Sullivan Theater is amazing; it’s an amazing audience, because you’re just doing standup in a theater.”
“What about [Jimmy] Kimmel? Please tell me Kimmel’s a decent guy,” EB inquired.
“Yea, he’s great,” Norton said. “I only did his show one time, but I’ve actually seen him more outside and he’s always friendly.”
“None of them are jerks. You can’t be in everybody’s living room every night and be a complete douche. You have to have some kind of good quality, because people will sense it pretty fast if you’re a creep. So they’ve always been nice to me, but Jay, I think, was just treating me the best.”
Although Norton notes he hasn’t spoken with Leno about his post-Tonight Show plans, if he had to guess, he thinks he’ll tour the country doing standup comedy for the next year, and then perhaps assess potential new television ventures.
Listen to both of Jim Norton’s segments with the Junkies in the clips above.