No Joke: Jay Jabs Dave in Interview

Jay Leno is ripping David Letterman in their decade-long feud over late-night supremacy.

"You'd think after all this time, it would be, 'Oh, well, he's successful, I'm successful, everybody is rich beyond their wildest dreams,' " Leno tells the April 13 issue of TV Guide, on newsstands Monday. 

"I don't know why there has to be such animosity. It just seems odd to me." 

The Leno-Letterman feud began in 1993, when NBC chose Leno to succeed Johnny Carson as host of the Tonight Show  snubbing Letterman, who jumped to CBS to establish The Late Show

"Two guys went up for a job, and one guy got it . . . It wasn't my decision," says Leno. 

"I didn't screw anybody out of anything." 

Letterman was beating Leno in the ratings early on, but it didn't last long — for the past seven years, Leno has averaged about 2 million more viewers a night than Letterman. 

Leno tells TV Guide that, while he often praises Letterman, he hears nothing but negative comments from Dave's camp. 

"You'll never get a, 'Yeah, they did a pretty good show last week,' or, 'That was a pretty funny joke,' " Leno says of the Late Night staff. 

"Plenty of times, I'll say, 'Oh, Dave had a funny thing last night,' or, 'He had so-and-so on last night, and he was really good with them.' " 

But there's a reason for the hostility, says Letterman confidant Rob Burnett. 

"We'd be more inclined to praise Jay if we didn't hear from people that, privately, he bad-mouths us at every turn," said Burnett, president of Letterman's production company, Worldwide Pants. 

Leno responds, "If there is any proof that I've said anything derogatory about them  in print or anywhere else I'll certainly be the first to apologize." 

Leno also comments sarcastically on the recent drama surrounding Letterman, who almost jumped to ABC  claiming he wasn't getting enough ratings support from CBS's prime-time schedule. 

"The only reason we're doing well is because of this unbelievable, nonstop, 24-hour-a-day promotion that NBC does [for The Tonight Show]," he snips. 

Leno, who's paid a reported $17 million per year, also says he doesn't mind making much less money than Letterman — who'll snag about $31.5 million per year under his new CBS deal. 

"I take a certain perverse pleasure in doing more shows per year [than Letterman], for probably half of the money Dave makes — and the show is more profitable," Leno says. 

"I don't know why it gets so nasty — I mean, I am very grateful to Dave. He did a lot for me when I started out."

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