New Retiree Jay Leno Fondly Recalls His Boston Roots at AARP Event

Whoopi Goldberg led Saturday’s conversation with Jay Leno.
Whoopi Goldberg led Saturday’s conversation with Jay Leno. –AARP

Former Tonight Show host and Andover native Jay Leno is back in the area this weekend to deliver Sunday’s commencement speech at his alma mater, Emerson College.

But first, Leno on Saturday morning spoke with Whoopi Goldberg at AARP’s “Life@50+’’ event, dishing on a handful of topics, including his humble beginnings as a stand up comic at Boston jazz club “Lennie’s on the Turnpike,’’ where he was house MC and would introduce jazz greats such as Miles Davis and Ahmad Jamal.

Leno shared one funny anecdote in particular from when he was on the road with jazz musician Rahsaan Roland Kirk.


Leno said that Kirk, who was blind, during the height of the Black power movement would routinely introduce him to predominately black audiences as “a brotha who’s gonna talk about The Man!’’ Leno, in turn, said he would walk out on the stage and gesture to the crowd to be quiet, as if it were a big secret Leno is not black.

Leno also joked that his mother chastised him about the name “The Tonight Show Starring Jay Leno’’ — “Oh, starring Mr. Big Shot,’’ Leno claimed his mother would say. “So I changed it to The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,’’ he said.

Of course no AARP event would be complete without a reference to one’s age.

Leno quipped that “I’m in better shape against other 64-year-olds than I ever was against other 25-year-olds!’’

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