Jay Leno The Tonight Show

NBC/Getty Images

NBC/Getty Images

How Jay Leno’s net worth was built

Jay Leno got his start in the 1970s as a stand-up comedian and had small parts in movies and TV shows. He also wrote for the sitcom “Good Times” and was a warm-up act for singers Tom Jones and Johnny Mathis.

But Leno made his name as a substitute host for Johnny Carson on NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” a gig he started in 1987. When Carson announced his retirement, that set off fierce competition between Leno and David Letterman, host of NBC’s “Late Night With David Letterman,” for Carson’s job. Leno won out, taking over from Carson as “Tonight Show” host in 1992.

He has stated that most of his earnings from “The Tonight Show” went directly into his bank account and that he has lived primarily on his income from his stand-up comedy gigs, which have generated between $15 million and $20 million annually.

Leno also is a famously avid car collector, owning over 200 automobiles that together have an estimated value of more than $50 million.

As of May 2017, Jay Leno had a net worth of $350 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

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Jay Leno

  • Born: 1950
  • Birthplace: New Rochelle, New York

What he’s up to now

Leno announced his retirement from “The Tonight Show” in 2013 and hosted his last episode on Feb. 6, 2014. Since then he has continued an active stand-up comedy career, and he also appears frequently at charity events.

Since 2015, he has hosted the CNBC show “Jay Leno’s Garage,” which started out as a web series but moved to TV in 2015. The show capitalizes on his longtime passion and deep interest in classic cars, and features reviews of both cars and motorcycles.


Leno has won several honors and awards throughout his career, including an Emmy for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series in 1995 and a People’s Choice Award for Favorite Late Night Talk Show Host in 2006.

He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2000 and was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 2014. In 2016, “Jay Leno’s Garage” won a Primetime Emmy Award for “Outstanding Special Class/Short-Format Nonfiction Program.”

Now that you’ve learned what Jay Leno is worth, see how his wealth compares to that of his arch-nemesis, David Letterman.