Dave Pulls A "#6" Punch On Leno|
June 20, 2000
NEW YORK — He may be a recovering heart patient, but David Letterman is heartless when it comes to his top-rated rival, Jay Leno.
In his latest and most brutal salvo yet, the CBS Late Show host hammered the star of NBC's first-place Tonight Show on Friday, calling him names and derisively mocking the tone of his voice.
Letterman's merciless taunts began when Leno's name turned up in the "Late Show Top 10." The category, timed to coincide with Father's Day, was "Top 10 Signs Your Kids Hate You."
Among the items on the list were No. 10: "Each year they give a World's Greatest Dad mug to the mailman!" and "No. 8: They keep leaving phone numbers of divorce lawyers in mom's purse!"
Then came No. 6: "Instead of watching daddy's late-night talk show, they watch that hump Jay Leno!" The line was greeted with some applause, but also with nervous laughter and scattered boos.
Turning to executive producer Maria Pope, who's often seen with a phone in her hand, Letterman said, "You think you're on the phone now, wait 'til tomorrow!"
He then launched into an impersonation of Leno, saying in a whiny high-pitched voice, "This is Father's Day and he called me a hump! I don't think that's fair! I don't think that's nice!"
Bandleader Paul Shaffer reacted by declaring, "I didn't know you did Jay!"
And then Letterman skewered Leno for the way he responds to interviewers who ask him if a rivalry exists between he and Letterman. Leno usually points out politely that there's room for more than one late-night show.
On Friday, Letterman squeaked, "It's Father's Day - there's room for everybody!"
Pope downplayed the abuse yesterday, insisting that Letterman harbors no lingering resentment over being passed over in favor of Leno as host of "The Tonight Show," succeeding Johnny Carson.
"This is not any momentous new thing," Pope said. "There have been other references [to Leno] before and this is just like any other night. We're just goofing around [and] having fun."
Indeed, references to Leno were exceedingly rare before Letterman's emergency heart surgery Jan. 14. But since returning Feb. 18, Letterman has made several remarks about Leno, although none as nasty as calling him a "hump," defined by the "Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang" as "a contemptible person."
And while "Late Show" got a bump in the ratings when Letterman returned, the show now trails "Tonight" by about the same margin that existed before Letterman's surgery.
Neither Leno nor Letterman were available for comment.
Source: Associated Press