He was the producer of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno for years, and now Dave Berg is dishing on all the juicy details of what was going on behind the scenes of the show that viewers didn’t get to see on TV.
He’s written a new book titled Behind the Curtain: An Insider’s View of Jay Leno’s Tonight Show, which details on the drama before the cameras turned on. Dave joined us on the phone this morning to explain why he decided to write the book.
“I wanted to pay homage to Jay Leno. I felt over the years, that the critics have sort of unfairly come after Jay and have not given him the due that he deserves,” he explained.
From difficult celebrities, legendary Tonight Show moments and history-making guests, Dave gives his personal account of what he experienced working on the show for two decades.
One of those memorable late-night moments that forever changed the game and rocketed the Tonight Show to the top late night show was Hugh Grant’s big scandal after being arrested for lewd conduct with a prostitute, Divine Brown. The arrest happened the same week he was booked on the show, and needless to say, it became one of their most-watched interviews.
“Hugh had already been booked on the show, so the challenge was to make sure he stayed in the show. So we talked to him and explained we’d go easy on him and it might be a good idea to clear the air – he had a huge movie that was coming out,” he said. “He finally agreed to stay in – Jay himself got on the phone – and at that time, we had been number two to David Letterman and after July 10, 1995, we shot up to number one and stayed there for two decades.”
So who was Jay’s favorite Tonight Show guest?
“John F. Kennedy Jr. It took me six years to book him on the show because of his incredible modesty. He didn’t think he was good enough to come on the Tonight Show,” he explained.
It takes tenacity and persistence to book these big time guests, and Dave notes that he spent years and years trying to get certain people on the show, and sometimes it didn’t always work out.
“It spent ten years trying to get Bill Clinton, and he was the one guy we wanted to get that we didn’t get,” he said.
Dave Berg’s book Behind the Curtain: An Insider’s View of Jay Leno’s Tonight Show comes out July 10 in bookstores and online. Get a sneak peek of the book by listening to our complete interview with Dave in the clip below.