Oprah: So did you and Arsenio remain friends even after he'd lost his show?
Jay: It's a bit like the relationship you might have with someone you've broken up with. Arsenio and I started in this business together. This is the kind of job where you really have to say—no pun intended—"Kick my ass, [I'll] turn the other cheek." I've had stars say, "I will never do Jay Leno's show." But you still see their movie, you read their book, you listen to their CD, you send them notes. And eventually, you win them back. You can't hold a grudge, because they need you and you need them. It's all just show business. It's silly.
Oprah: You're right—it doesn't make any sense.
Jay: As a comedian, you cannot hit the stage with any malice in your heart or it won't work. There's nothing funny when you go to a club and hear a comedian saying, "So anyway, my ex-wife..." You think, Gee, these jokes are a little harsh, aren't they? You sense the anger behind the words. If I have a problem with someone, it's resolved before showtime—win or lose. For instance, if you and I had a big fight today and I had a show tonight, I would call you and try to work it out, and it would end with, "Well look, Oprah, I'm sorry."
Oprah: Clean—that's really good.
Jay: Show business is a marriage, and you can't go to bed mad or it doesn't work.
Oprah: Jay, you're one of the funniest guys in the world, but I know there is serious work behind that. Don't you work all the time?
Jay: It's only work if you don't enjoy it. Most people have a job, not a career. Because this is a career for me, everything I do eventually benefits me. If you work for the Yale Lock Company, then all your benefit goes to the Yale Lock Company.
Oprah: But aren't you always reading magazines, looking through newspapers, trying to find good material?
Jay: My attitude is the same one I had in school. I didn't study a whole lot, but I never skipped a day of school—I just tried to show up and pay attention so I could absorb things. That's kind of what comedy is. You have two TVs on while you're reading the paper, and you try to process it all.
Oprah: So you're never not working?
Jay: I'm always looking for something funny. I need voluminous amounts of material to do 11 minutes of jokes every day, so I try to find humor in every single thing that happens.
We Hear You!