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At one time in my career, before I became the host of The Tonight Show , I was on the road at least 300 days a year. In fact, I was the country’s third most frequent flier and was given an award by American Airlines for racking up so many miles — which I’m proud of . I’m less proud of the fact that in my early days as a comedian on the road, I had a little trick I would do in order to preboard the plane. I would limp up to the check-in counter so that I could be one of the first to board and take an overhead compartment for my carry-on luggage. One time, a sweet lady in a wheelchair said, “Go ahead, Dearie. You seem to be in a lot more pain than me.” Boy, did I feel terrible. I felt like the guy who put on a dress to get into one of the Titanic’s lifeboats. It was horrible, and it put an end to my scam.

In general, I’ve always been more comfortable in the role of interviewer than interviewee. I mostly find other people more interesting and subscribe to a low-key approach to celebrity. I’m a great believer in low self-esteem. I find generally the only people with especially high self-esteem are actors and criminals. If you go into a situation assuming that you are the dumbest person in the room, I think you will fare better than if you go in assuming you are the smartest one.

I was a bit dyslexic as a kid, and my mom always said, “You will have to work harder than the other kids to get the same thing.” And that has worked for me throughout life. If I work harder than the other guys, I will at least be even, if not better. The fable of the tortoise and the hare has always rung true for me. I wasn’t a particularly good student, but I never missed a day of school. I was always under the impression that if I listened and observed, it would be more beneficial than if I sat at home and studied and studied.

A steady approach to life has always worked best for me. My days now are not particularly hard, but they are long. I start at about 7:30 a.m. and do jokes until about midnight. At no point in the day am I going 100 miles per hour. Most people work in 100-mile-per-hour spurts — and then relax. For me, one of the keys to success is pacing myself. Coming from New England, I would be considered a lazy person there, but in Hollywood, I’m the hardest-working person in show business. It’s just a different work ethic. I’m glad I grew up where I did and have the work ethic I do.

That said, I’m not sure that I have lots of wisdom to impart here. I’ve done many interviews, and there are a few things that either I don’t get asked — or might bear repeating — or might be amusing. So, for what it’s worth, on page 40 you’ll find a Q&A with, well, myself. After all, what better way to get the truth from someone who has had the incredible opportunity to observe Hollywood from fairly close up? In the end, I think the real trick is to make show- business money and still lead a normal life. Then, you’ll be happy.

Jay Leno
Editor