As with most Jay Leno headlines, it’s neither news nor especially entertaining that late-night talk shows often ply their guests with alcohol, the better to get otherwise-introverted actors in the mood to really loosen up and fulfill their promotional obligations. Stories of Jay Leno’s backstage bar cart at The Tonight Show have been around since at least 2001—and Tom Green pounding Jagermeister aside, they hardly match those wild Johnny Carson years when he, Dean Martin, Burt Reynolds, and Ed McMahon would take turns holding each other’s hair while they puked for 40 minutes straight.
Still, even though you’ve seen this and you’ve heard about this for decades now, there’s a new book from longtime producer Dave Berg that looks at The Lighter Side of drunk Leno guests. For example, calling out people like Quentin Tarantino for the time that he “hit The Jay Bar so hard that he was slurring and ‘occasionally incoherent’ on air”—a marked difference from Tarantino’s usually manic, more articulated form of incoherence.
Other sort-of-revelations from Berg’s appropriately blandly titled Behind The Curtain: An Insider’s View Of Jay Leno’s Tonight Show include calling Eddie Murphy a “diva” for his detailed dressing room riders (Three kinds of Snapple!); Teri Hatcher “complicated” for her sudden mood swings; and Christian Bale “difficult,” for his refusal to play along with pre-show interview questions about his upbringing. All three will now suffer the consequences of fans questioning whether their normally gracious, down-to-earth personas are some sort of put-on.
Jessica Simpson also reportedly has expensive hair.
Along with these shocking revelations—which also include Dennis Rodman being “chronically late” and Paula Abdul being “erratic”—Behind The Curtain finally explains why Bill Clinton continuously refused the show’s overtures to come and be a guest, despite it once sending him a bicycle. As it turns out, he didn’t particularly care for Leno’s constant Monica Lewinsky jokes. Thus, a spurned Leno was left to keep Clinton there in spirit, by making those jokes 4,607 times.
Unfortunately unanswered in Berg’s book is what show laughing band leader Kevin Eubanks was watching.