Imag: Jay Leno

Winter

Jay Leno, ‘Tonight’ and beyond

A look at Jay Leno’s comedic career, including his work as “Tonight Show” host and philanthropy.

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Image: The Tonight Show with Jay Leno

Happy to be back

Jay Leno basks in the glow as he returns to "The Tonight Show" at the NBC studio in Burbank, Calif., on Monday, March 1. "It's good to be home,” he said as he began his monologue. "I’m Jay Leno, your host. At least, for a while."

Justin Lubin / Episodic
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Image:  Lindsey Vonn during an interview with host Jay Leno on March 1, 2010

Golden girl

Olympic gold medal winning skier Lindsey Vonn chats with Leno during his first night back on "The Tonight Show" on Monday, March 1. "Did you see her?" Leno marveled. "When it comes to going downhill, nobody is faster. OK, except NBC."

Paul Drinkwater / Episodic
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Image: Jay Leno Show

10 spot

Leno tapes the inaugural episode of NBC's "The Jay Leno Show" in Burbank, Calif., on Sept. 14, 2009.The host broke new ground on broadcast television with the launch of the show at 10 p.m. -- a timeslot normally reserved for scripted programming. The show, however, failed to attract viewers and NBC pulled the plug on its "Leno experiment" on Jan. 11, 2010.

Nbc / Getty Images North America
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Conan O'Brien, who inherited the "Tonight Show" desk from Leno, was Leno's final guest on Friday, May 29, 2009. Leno told him he was the perfect choice as a replacement.

The torch is passed

Conan O'Brien, who inherited the "Tonight Show" desk from Leno, was Leno's final guest on Friday, May 29, 2009. Leno told him he was the perfect choice as a replacement.

Paul Drinkwater
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Jay Leno performs his stand-up act during a Middlesex Community College Celebrity Forum event at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium in Lowell, Mass., in 2008. Despite his "Tonight" commitment, Leno continues to do stand-up around the country.

Still doing stand-up

Jay Leno performs his stand-up act during a Middlesex Community College Celebrity Forum event at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium in Lowell, Mass., in 2008. Despite his "Tonight" commitment, Leno continues to do stand-up around the country.

Lisa Poole
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Leno and wife Mavis pose during the cocktail reception at the 30th anniversary Carousel of Hope Ball to benefit the Barbara Davis center for childhood diabetes on Oct. 25, 2008, in Beverly Hills, Calif. The couple married in 1980.

An evening out with the missus

Leno and wife Mavis pose during the cocktail reception at the 30th anniversary Carousel of Hope Ball to benefit the Barbara Davis center for childhood diabetes on Oct. 25, 2008, in Beverly Hills, Calif. The couple married in 1980.

Kevin Winter
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Sen. John McCain appeared on "The Tonight Show" on Nov. 11, 2008. It was McCain's first public appearance since losing the presidential election to Barack Obama on Nov. 4.

Post-election chat

Sen. John McCain appeared on "The Tonight Show" on Nov. 11, 2008. It was McCain's first public appearance since losing the presidential election to Barack Obama on Nov. 4.

Paul Drinkwater
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Leno films an installment of his popular Jay Walking segment for "The Tonight Show." In the segment, he picks random strangers on the street and asks them questions about history and current events to often very funny results.

Jay Walking

Leno films an installment of his popular Jay Walking segment for "The Tonight Show." In the segment, he picks random strangers on the street and asks them questions about history and current events to often very funny results.

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Chris Rock appeared on "The Tonight Show" on Sept. 9, 2005, to sign a Harley-Davidson motorcycle that Leno was using to raise money for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The motorcycle, which was auctioned on eBay, sold for $1.5 million.

Show him the money

Chris Rock appeared on "The Tonight Show" on Sept. 9, 2005, to sign a Harley-Davidson motorcycle that Leno was using to raise money for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The motorcycle, which was auctioned on eBay, sold for $1.5 million.

Paul Drinkwater/
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Leno leaves the Santa Barbara County Courthouse in Santa Maria, Calif., on May 24, 2005, after serving as a defense witness in Michael Jackson's child molestation trial. As part of a gag order issued during the trial, Leno was barred from making jokes about the singer in his "Tonight" monologues. After NBC challenged the order, the judge amended it, allowing the host to joke about Jackson as long as the jokes didn't relate to his testimony.

For the defense

Leno leaves the Santa Barbara County Courthouse in Santa Maria, Calif., on May 24, 2005, after serving as a defense witness in Michael Jackson's child molestation trial. As part of a gag order issued during the trial, Leno was barred from making jokes about the singer in his "Tonight" monologues. After NBC challenged the order, the judge amended it, allowing the host to joke about Jackson as long as the jokes didn't relate to his testimony.

Joshua Gates Weisberg
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Oprah Winfrey came to Burbank to help Leno celebrate the 50th anniversary of "The Tonight Show" with a cake commemorating its hosts from past and present.

Happy anniversary

Oprah Winfrey came to Burbank to help Leno celebrate the 50th anniversary of "The Tonight Show" with a cake commemorating its hosts from past and present.

Paul Drinkwater
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In 2004, it was announced that Conan O'Brien, left, would succeed Leno as host of "The Tonight Show." Leno's last show as "Tonight" host was May 29, 2009.

This 'Tonight' successor

In 2004, it was announced that Conan O'Brien, left, would succeed Leno as host of "The Tonight Show." Leno's last show as "Tonight" host was May 29, 2009.

Jean-Paul Aussenard
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Leno introduced Arnold Schwarzenegger at his victory celebration at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles after the actor was elected governor of California in a special recall election on Oct. 7, 2003. Schwarzenegger had announced his candidacy on "The Tonight Show."

A mind for politics

Leno introduced Arnold Schwarzenegger at his victory celebration at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles after the actor was elected governor of California in a special recall election on Oct. 7, 2003. Schwarzenegger had announced his candidacy on "The Tonight Show."

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Jay Leno served as Grand Marshal at "Love Ride 19" on Nov. 10, 2002, in Glendale, Calif. The event benefited Reading By 9 and other charities.

A pause for the cause

Jay Leno served as Grand Marshal at "Love Ride 19" on Nov. 10, 2002, in Glendale, Calif. The event benefited Reading By 9 and other charities.

Robert Mora
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Hugh Grant appeared on at "The Tonight Show" shortly after being arrested for soliciting Hollywood prostitute Divine Brown in 1995. Leno famously asked the actor, "What were you thinking?"

'What were you thinking?'

Hugh Grant appeared on at "The Tonight Show" shortly after being arrested for soliciting Hollywood prostitute Divine Brown in 1995. Leno famously asked the actor, "What were you thinking?"

Kevin Winter
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Leno spoke to the audience in lieu of his regular monologue during the taping of "The Tonight Show" on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2001. This was the first show to be telecast after the Sept. 11 attacks.

A time to laugh

Leno spoke to the audience in lieu of his regular monologue during the taping of "The Tonight Show" on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2001. This was the first show to be telecast after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Fred Prouser
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Leno, center and singer Elton John, left, looked on while then-New York Giants defensive back Jason Sehorn surprises his girlfriend, actress Angie Harmon, with a marriage proposal during the taping of "The Tonight Show" on Monday, March 13, 2000. Her answer was "Yes."

An 'ahhh' moment

Leno, center and singer Elton John, left, looked on while then-New York Giants defensive back Jason Sehorn surprises his girlfriend, actress Angie Harmon, with a marriage proposal during the taping of "The Tonight Show" on Monday, March 13, 2000. Her answer was "Yes."

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Jazz great Branford Marsalis, right, served as musical director during Leno's first three years as "Tonight" host. Marsalis left the show in 1995.

Horning in

Jazz great Branford Marsalis, right, served as musical director during Leno's first three years as "Tonight" host. Marsalis left the show in 1995.

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Leno poses with one of his many motocycles. An avid collector, he auctioned off a Harley-Davidson autographed by celebrity "Tonight Show" guests in 2001 to help victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Hog heaven

Leno poses with one of his many motocycles. An avid collector, he auctioned off a Harley-Davidson autographed by celebrity "Tonight Show" guests in 2001 to help victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.

George Rose
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Leno made a guest appearance as a biker on the TV series "Alice," playing alongside Vic Tayback, right, and Linda Lavin. Leno has a passion for motorcycles in real life, and a large collection to show for it.

Bringing his passion to the small screen

Leno made a guest appearance as a biker on the TV series "Alice," playing alongside Vic Tayback, right, and Linda Lavin. Leno has a passion for motorcycles in real life, and a large collection to show for it.

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Leno made a guest appearance on "Laverne and Shirley" in 1979, working alongside series stars Cindy Williams, left, and Penny Marshall.

Jay Leno -- actor

Leno made a guest appearance on "Laverne and Shirley" in 1979, working alongside series stars Cindy Williams, left, and Penny Marshall.

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Jay Leno made his first "Tonight Show" appearance in 1977, joining host Johnny Carson, right, and Ed McMahon, left, on the couch. Leno would become Carson's regular substitute host in 1987 before taking the helm of the show in 1992.

A taste of his future

Jay Leno made his first "Tonight Show" appearance in 1977, joining host Johnny Carson, right, and Ed McMahon, left, on the couch. Leno would become Carson's regular substitute host in 1987 before taking the helm of the show in 1992.

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