Jay Leno Writes a Touching Tribute to David Letterman, Sneaks in Backhanded Compliments

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Even when David Letterman was mean to him, Jay Leno thought it was funny. In a personal essay for The Hollywood Reporter, Leno has congratulated Letterman (with a sprinkle of shade) for being honored with this year’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Leno recalled their early days as comedians in the 1980s, and reminisced about their later late-night rivalry. They weren’t friends, but Leno says he always appreciated Letterman’s eccentric finesse. “The idea that there was a huge rift between me and Dave — yeah, of course there was,” Leno wrote. “I think there was a mutual admiration. It’s not that we have a lot in common — we don’t — but I think that we have a mutual admiration for each other’s ability to make each other laugh.” Leno says that “even when [Letterman] was mean to me, it was funny, and that’s all that matters.” He congratulates his rival on the honor, and subtly reminds everyone that he received it first: “But I’m thrilled that Dave is getting the Mark Twain award. It’s a great award — it’s Mark Twain! And it gives my Mark Twain Prize [in 2015] credence.” In the hierarchy of diva-dom, Leno-Letterman is almost close to eclipsing Patti and Aretha.

Leno Lauds Letterman, Sneaks in Backhanded Compliments