Leno Mixes Business with Pleasure in Peoria

By WEEK Producer

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    Tonight Show host Jay Leno talks cars at Bradley University in October 2010.

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October 28, 2010 Updated Oct 28, 2010 at 9:20 PM CST

You probably knew Tonight Show host Jay Leno liked cars, but did you know he could talk cars like a pro?

Leno spent close to half an hour talking shop with Bradley engineering students and looking at their projects.

For a guy who owns 200 cars and motorcycles, this is a good time.

"Anything that rolls and explodes and makes noise is interesting to me," said Leno.

Sounds like a description of Leno's professional career this year.

The meltdown of his primetime show, coupled with his controversial return to the Tonight Show, made him a punch line.

The Tonight Show has steadily improved in the ratings, and Leno hopes it seems like he never got out of the late night driver's seat.

"To me," said Leno, "the thing that always made the Tonight Show was the monologue. You try out as many jokes as you can. We tend to do 9 to 14 minutes of monologue, other shows tend to do 3 to 6 minutes, so I think that's sort of the key."

Should Leno have agreed to step aside for Conan O'Brien in the first place?

Well, the one thing you won't hear Leno talk about is regrets, because he believes it always backfires with viewers.

"People see you as a comedian, you should out there and be funny," said Leno. "Nobody likes to see rich people upset and mad. Nothing seems more spoiled in real world America than rich people saying 'They're paying me this much? Well, then I am leaving!' Shut up!'

"Did it bother you, in retrospect, that you were portrayed that ways everything blew up?" asked News25's Mike Dimmick.

"Welcome to show business. Welcome to show business," said Leno. "That's the way it is."