Jay Leno

Written by Will Baum
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Jay Leno is known as one of the hardest working--and nicest--people in show business. Before the sharp-chinned comic became the host of "The Tonight Show," he was a touring stand-up comedian. Leno sometimes made as many as 300 personal appearances a year.

Leno was born James Douglas Muir on April 29, 1950. Though his life started in New Rochelle, New York, the family soon moved to Andover, Massachusetts. The young Leno pursued a degree at Emerson College, but it was comedy that was Jay Leno's true calling.

After misfires on the big screen ("American Hot Wax" in 1978 and "Americathon" in 1979) Leno found his niche in television. Jay Leno became the guest of choice on late night TV, first on "The David Letterman Show" and then on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show." By 1988, Leno was Carson's permanent guest host. When Carson stepped down in 1992, Leno got the job. Leno now regularly tops his old friend David Letterman in the late-night ratings.

Jay Leno Branches Out

Even as "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" keeps him hard at work, Leno has found time for side projects. His book, "Leading with My Chin," was a bestseller in 1998. 2004 brought the publication of Leno's first children's book, "If Roast Beef Could Fly." Leno still hones his act on nightclub stages and makes frequent appearances speaking at private and corporate functions.

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