‘My face caught on fire’: Jay Leno shares details about recent accident on ‘Today’

Two men in blue button-down shirts sit inside a black truck, photographed through the driver's side window
Jay Leno and Arnold Schwarzenegger hang out at his Burbank garage, where the comic suffered burns while working on a car in November.
(CNBC / NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

In his first interview since suffering major burns from a car fire while working in his garage, Jay Leno shared graphic details about the incident.

Leno and longtime friend David Killackey sat for an interview with “Today” co-anchor Hoda Kotb inside Leno’s Burbank garage, where Killackey witnessed the incident.

Leno, 72, joked his way through the segment. But Killackey was more blunt.

“It was horrific,” Killackey said. “It was a scary thing.”

Jay Leno wrote about his severe burn injuries in a column for the Wall Street Journal. He was hospitalized in November for second and third degree burns.

Dec. 12, 2022

Leno said he had been working to repair a clogged fuel line on his 1907 White steam car — one of many vintage cars in his collection — when gas shot out and ignited.

“And my face caught on fire,” Leno said.

Leno called out to Killackey, who ran over, grabbed him by the head, pulled him close to his chest and smothered the flames with his body, Killackey recalled. Leno interrupted the retelling with a joke about “a bad Tinder date.”


“He downplays it all, but I’m telling you, he was engulfed,” Killackey said. “I couldn’t see his face. It was a wall of fire.”

Jay Leno suffered severe burns on his face, chest and hands from a fire in his garage earlier this month. After multiple surgeries, his doctor expects a ‘full recovery.’

Nov. 21, 2022

They said Leno ran over to a bathroom sink to run cold water on his face while Killackey put out the gasoline fire. When Killackey went to check on his friend, he said, he saw several layers of Leno’s skin peeling and immediately called 911.

“He asked me, ‘How do I look?’ I said, ‘Not good,’” Killackey recalled.

Burbank fire paramedics who responded to the garage told him he needed to go to a burn center right away. But Leno said he declined an ambulance ride to a hospital , and instead drove himself home.

“My wife doesn’t drive anymore, and I didn’t want her stuck,” Leno said of Mavis Leno, his wife of four decades. “It seemed like the right thing to do.”

Jay Leno’s doctor said the comic is in good condition after he sustained burns to his face, hands and chest while working on a car over the weekend.

Nov. 16, 2022

Leno spent the next nine days hospitalized at the Grossman Burn Center in West Hills for treatment of burns to his face, chest and hands. While there, doctors scraped away layers of burned skin, and he spent eight hours a day in a hyperbaric chamber to aid the healing process. Leno called the chamber “a glass coffin” and joked about not being able to communicate with medical staff.

When Kotb asked him what was going through his head during his hospital stay, Leno said he was already rehearsing jokes for his stand-up act. Within days of his release in late November, Leno performed a set at the Comedy & Magic Club in Hermosa Beach.


For the “Today” interview, Leno brought with him a copy of the National Enquirer, which ran a cover story about the car fire. He held up the issue during the interview, poking fun at the headlines including one that called him “a human torch.”

“You have to laugh at it,” Leno told Kotb, shrugging. “It is kind of funny.”

Comedy legend Jay Leno denied that he “deliberately sabotaged” “The Jay Leno Show” in 2009 to regain his gig as host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show.”

Aug. 2, 2022

Leno said he didn’t want to be a “whiny celebrity” with “all these cars, this beautiful house” complaining about what happened to him. He said people would just tell him, “Shut up!”

“In the real world, this happens to people every single day,” Leno said. “People who work with their hands get injured every single day.”

When Kotb asked whether he’d be more skittish around cars, Leno said no and added, “Did I learn from this?” He puckered his lips and blew, as if spitting spitting water while laughing. “Of course not,” he said.