Retirement is suiting Jay Leno just fine. Because he’s not really retired. The late night legend, who left The Tonight Show in his rearview mirror in February 2014, is the host of NBC’s Jay Leno’s Garage and still goes back to his first love — standup —as often as he can. Another well-documented love of Leno’s: cars. The 65-year-old showbiz vet — who owns 117 motorcycles and 140 automobiles — will perform Saturday night at the 10th annual Boca Raton Concours d’Elegance gala dinner at the Boca Raton Resort & Club and act as celebrity judge during the main event on Sunday.
What do you think of the Concours?
It’s become a world-class event. People down in Florida really have wonderful collections. I usually like to see the work some guy did by himself with a few cans of spray paint in his own garage. That does it for me, not checkbook restorations. I also like that proceeds go to a good cause [Boys & Girls Clubs of Broward County].
Do you miss ‘The Tonight Show?’
Look, you only live in the time you live in. I used to write new jokes in the same place. When I go out on the road, I write the same jokes in a new place. I enjoyed it, but it was work. People say, ‘Oh, it was just an hour.’ But I used to get to the set at 7:30 in the morning and wouldn’t leave until 8 or 9 at night. Plus: When you’re 40 talking to a 26-year-old supermodel, it’s sexy. When you’re 65, you’re the creepy old guy.
How do you like the show’s format since you left?
I did it from 1992 to 2014. The business changes, and you have to change with it. Now it’s about viral videos, competitions, games, stunts and karaoke. When I first came up, The Tonight Show was the only thing to watch. Now with all those tabloid magazine type shows, the celebrities are pretty much talked out, telling the same stories over and over. So you have to come up with something else, which is what Jimmy Fallon does. He’s terrific — and probably more like Johnny Carson than anyone. I’m not a big fan of taking a picture of my lunch and sending it to people, but, hey, [social media] is second nature now.
How has humor evolved over the years?
For my era, Bill Clinton was the golden age. Men screwing around and behaving badly? What’s better than that? You can’t get more old school. It’s a different world now. And a little unpleasant — racism, homophobia, Islamaphobia. You can’t touch that.
You’ve been married to the same woman, Mabel, for 36 years. What’s your secret?
Listen. Take notes of what they say over the course of the year. And on Valentine’s Day say, ‘Remember what you talked about back in March?’ That’s the key. It’s not hard.
Tickets: 954-537-1010 or www.bocaCDE.com.