About (Late) Last Night: Howard Stern badmouths Jay Leno on ‘Late Show’
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Just when it seemed the late-night wars had reached a kind of detente, Howard Stern stopped by ‘Late Show with David Letterman’ Thursday night to reignite hostilities all over again.
Stern, who was ostensibly making an appearance to plug his radio show, had a different goal in mind: He told Letterman: ‘I want to see you beat Jay Leno in the ratings tonight.’
He explained to Letterman that he’d just bought ‘The War for Late Night,’ Bill Carter’s book about last year’s vicious late-night feuding, and he was hooked. ‘I follow this like it’s the Torah,’ Stern joked. He had a confession to make: ‘I’m ready to comment on this now. You know as well as everyone in this room, Jay is horrible.’ The audience erupted in applause, and somewhere, off in the distance, I think I heard Leno wincing.
Stern, as usual, was in a performing mood. This time, he was playing the part of the tough-talking motivator, and encouraged Letterman and his crew to play hardball against Leno. ‘There should a whole attitude adjustment on this show,’ he said.
Stern wondered: Why did Letterman do that Super Bowl commercial with Leno last year, anyway? ‘We had the guy down on the ground. ... You had your foot on his neck.’
Stern told bandleader Paul Shaffer, ‘You’ve gotten a little bit complacent.’ Case in point: All those pianos Shaffer uses. ‘I have an iPad you could play all those instruments on,’ he said.
Then Stern returned to bashing Letterman’s rival of the last two decades. ‘He wants to beat this Jay Leno. Jay’s got no talent.’
It was harsh, but what else can you expect from Stern? For his part, Letterman -- who was all too happy to sling some mud last year -- remained mum about Leno’s alleged lack of talent, and turned the tables back on Stern. ‘I know you’re busy ... busy counting your money,’ he said.
But Stern was determined to stay on message. ‘Look, I love you, I’m in your corner. I don’t want the same thing to happen to you that happened to Regis.’
What did you think? Is Stern right?