David Letterman says in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that Jay Leno, who became his longtime rival after he was made the host of NBC's "Tonight Show" instead of him, is the funniest and "most insecure person" he has ever known.
Letterman, who went on to host his own late-night talk program on CBS -- "The Late Show," made his comments on an episode of "Oprah's Next Chapter," which is set to air on OWN on January 6. Parts of the interview have been posted on the cable channel's website. Leno's rep had no immediate comment about Letterman's remarks.
The two met in 1975 in Los Angeles and were initially friends and colleagues -- they performed at the same clubs. Letterman began to host NBC's "Late Night" show in 1982 and had Leno appear on it. Both guest-hosted "The Tonight Show" several times, when host Johnny Carson was absent.
"The rivalry ... Jay and I were friends," Letterman told Winfrey. "We were always friends before all of this happened."
Leno was named the permanent host of "The Tonight Show" in 1992. Letterman had expected to get the job. He told Winfrey that despite speculation, Leno's appointment was not the reason for their rivalry.
"He has a way ... he's an unusual fellow," Letterman told Winfrey. "I've never met anyone quite like Jay and I will say and I'm happy to say that I think he is the funniest guy I've ever known -- just flat out ... if you see him do his nightclub act, just the funniest, smartest, wonderful observations and very appealing as a comic. Therefore, the fact that he is also maybe the most insecure person I have ever known, I could never reconcile that."
Their feud spurred a book titled "The Late Shift: Letterman, Leno, and the Network Battle for the Night" and a 1996 TV film adaptation of it, starring John Michael Higgins as Letterman and Daniel Roebuck as Leno, as well as satirical magazine covers (pictured above).
Letterman and Winfrey had also been involved in what many called a feud, which started more than 15 years ago, but have since reconciled. (Check out details.) They also discuss the matter in the "Oprah's Next Chapter" interview, which marks the first time Winfrey reveals to Letterman the "true reason" behind it, the cable channel said in a statement to OTRC.com.