The Real Reason NBC Employees Barred Jay Leno From Entering The Studio

As the host of "The Tonight Show" for more than 20 years, Jay Leno eventually became a fixture at NBC's studios in Burbank, California, but he had to work his way up to landing that coveted hosting spot for years before the network chose him to be Johnny Carson's replacement in 1992 (via IMDb). When he did land the job, he was well-known in Hollywood and NBC wouldn't have dared not let him into the studio, but things were not always that way.

Leno spent his childhood trying to perfect his knack for comedy, apparently coming at it naturally when he would prank fellow students as far back as elementary school. According to Biography, his teacher wrote the following on his fifth grade report card. "If Jay spent as much time studying as he does trying to be a comedian, he'd be a big star." 

But, study he did, and Leno even earned a degree in speech therapy from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. While in college, he did a little stand-up comedy and eventually decided to try comedy writing in Los Angeles, landing a gig with the sitcom "Good Times". By 1977, he landed his first guest appearance on "The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson" and the rest is history, but not without a few snags along the way.

Jay Leno worked his way up to his cushy job, but not without difficulties

It was 10 years after his first-ever "Tonight Show" appearance, and Jay Leno had been making his rounds along the comedy circuit, including more appearances on Johnny Carson's late-night sketch and gabfest. He had also hosted his own television comedy special, "Jay Leno and the American Dream." Then, NBC offered him a deal he never thought he'd get — a chance to be one of two permanent guest hosts of "The Tonight Show" (via Biography), subbing for Carson who was known for taking frequent breaks.

When Leno arrived at the NBC studios for his first hosting appearance and told the guards he was going to be that night's "Tonight Show" guest host, they didn't believe him because they didn't recognize him. Hence, they wouldn't let him in the studio, according to Factinate. Eventually, Leno cleared things up, but it took a while before people got used to him. In fact, one NBC affiliate interviewer introduced him as someone "who claims to have hosted 'The Tonight Show.'" Of course, Leno got the last laugh when he ended up hosting the show permanently for more than two decades, making him one of the most well-known names and faces in show biz.