Acclaimed TV late-night-show host Jay Leno will entertain Western Growers’ members at the 89th Annual Meeting Award of Honor dinner to be held at the Bellagio Resort in Las Vegas the evening of November 4.
Known best as a stand-up comedian, Leno is multi-talented. He is a best-selling children’s book author, much-in-demand corporate speaker, television and movie voice-over artist, pioneering car builder and mechanic, and philanthropist. It’s no wonder that Leno is characterized as “the hardest working man in show business.”
The comedian’s late night television ratings domination included more than two decades of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”, winning every consecutive quarter over the past 19 years. After resuming hosting the 11:35 p.m. program slot, following a one-time interruption, he made it once again the consistent ratings leader for late night, leading all of the ensuing quarters handily. In the process, he has been honored by the Television Academy with an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy, Variety or Music Series. “The Tonight Show” has also taken home the trophy for Favorite Late Night Show in the annual TV Guide Awards determined by voting viewers, and he will soon be installed in the Television Academy's Broadcast Hall of Fame.
As if night-time dominance was not enough, Leno has also succeeded in the newest entertainment arena. “Jay Leno’s Garage” (Jaylenosgarage.com) has gained an international following on the Web, not to mention an Emmy Award and two additional nominations for Outstanding Special Class – Short-Format Nonfiction Programs. Leno produces the NBC creation with Robert Angelo.
Leno, himself, is the recipient of the People’s Choice Award and other honors, including the Harris Poll selection as most popular star on television. Other personal highlights include: the Hasty Pudding Award at Harvard University, an honor whose sole prior comedy/talk host recipient was Johnny Carson; a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame; and being the first person to drive the pace car of all major NASCAR events.
It was in May of 1992 when Leno followed in the footsteps of legendary NBC late-night hosts Steve Allen, Jack Paar and Johnny Carson as “The Tonight Show” host. Pitted against another television superstar, David Letterman, Leno became the ratings leader of late night within two years and never looked back, establishing firm leadership in all demographic categories, a winning streak exceeding 50 consecutive quarters.
Prior to becoming host, Leno had been the exclusive guest host on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” since September 1987. He first appeared as a guest on the show March 2, 1977, and made numerous additional appearances on that show, as well as on NBC’s former program “Late Night with David Letterman.”
An indefatigable performer, Leno loves to test his humor on audiences across the nation, performing more than 100 live appearances in nightclubs, theaters and stadiums each year. He has been touted as one of the nicest people in show business and the hardest-working — a winning combination for the man who says, “Anyone can have a life — careers are hard to come by!”
His “everyman” style and personality have helped him earn millions of fans worldwide, especially in the regions where people relate to his personable style and work ethic. In addition to traversing the United States, he has entertained in various countries, including Bosnia, where he performed for military troops engaged in the war in Afghanistan, and Aviano, Italy, where he performed for troops on peacekeeping efforts in Bosnia. He remains passionate about performing in front of live audiences, including the military, and appears regularly in Las Vegas and on college campuses around the United States among other venues.
Moreover, he is committed to using his amalgam of talents to help those less fortunate. Each year, he serves as master of ceremonies and does numerous benefit performances, including shows for those whose lives were devastated by the 9/11 tragedy, the tsunami in Thailand, hurricanes in the gulf, and the severe economic downturn in Detroit. He leads the annual Love Ride in California to benefit numerous humanitarian organizations serving people with autism and muscular dystrophy, and supports the Special Olympics, among many other events and causes.
He has also served as honorary campaign chairman for several years for the Entertainment Industry Foundation, Hollywood’s charitable arm, and has assisted the Gender Apartheid campaign led by his wife, Mavis, together with the Feminist Majority, to free Afghan women of Taliban tyranny, an effort for which Mavis and The Feminist Majority were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Leno’s children’s book, “If Roast Beef Could Fly” (from Simon & Schuster) hit bookstores in April 2004 and immediately was a New York Times Bestseller. His follow-up book for children, “How to be the Funniest Kid in Your Class,” was similarly successful. His other book, “Leading with My Chin” (from HarperCollins), hit the bookstores in 1998. He has also published four versions of “Headlines,” the compilation of books and desk calendars featuring his favorite funny newspaper headlines, and “Police Blotter,” a book with humorous newspaper clips involving police stories (book proceeds go to various charities).
When he is not performing, writing, or doing charitable work, Leno keeps busy with voice-over work in such movies as “Cars” and “Igor” and the hit-TV show “The Fairly Oddparents” (Nickelodeon), where the character “The Crimson Chin” — a superhero with a chin with superpowers — was inspired by Leno’s own noted jawline. He also is a much-in-demand corporate speaker for companies, including General Motors, and he is a monthly columnist in “Popular Mechanics.” He enjoys working on his collection of classic cars and motorcycles and has built a number of vehicles, including an acclaimed eco-car in his eco-friendly green garage.
Leno was born in New Rochelle, NY, and raised in Andover, MA. He and his wife live in Los Angeles.
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