Leno put his relationship with Carson in perspective Monday on "The View." It was the first time Leno had talked about Carson in any public venue other than "The Tonight Show" since Carson's death Jan. 23.
"We were all very sad when we heard about Johnny Carson's death and you did this wonderful tribute," co-host Barbara Walters said to Leno, referring to the special "Tonight Show" Leno hosted Jan. 24, just one day after Carson died, that paid loving tribute to his legendary predecessor.
"You said you still feel like a guest in his house ..." Walters said.
"Well, yeah, I think that's true," said Leno, who was on hand to help "The View" inaugurate a week of broadcasts from Los Angeles.
"Johnny built 'The Tonight Show' and made it what it is," Leno said, "and, you know, it's a very tricky situation to be in because I did not have a close relationship with Johnny.
"He was always very nice to me and very kind to me. And whenever we needed a piece of tape, I would call over to the office once in a while and say, 'Oh, we have Sally Fields [sic] on. Could we have a piece of tape from, like, 1974 when she was a kid?' And he was always very gracious to us.
"But I can't say that I was close to the man. I would have liked to have been, but I wasn't."
Leno was Carson's permanent guest host for about four years before he won the job as host of the show following Carson's retirement in May 1992.