"Letterman has been hammering me every night. ... You know the best way to get Letterman to ignore you? Marry him," the host of The Jay Leno Show said in his Wednesday monologue — taking a clear shot at Letterman's admission that he's dated staffers over the years.
In the early '90s, Leno and Letterman famously dueled over who would succeed Johnny Carson on NBC's Tonight Show, and battled for ratings for 17 years. They've renewed their spat with vigor since NBC's ratings woes prompted Leno's return to the 11:35 slot. The shift led Tonight Show host Conan O'Brien to announce he would rather quit than appear at a later time.
As final details of O'Brien's departure were ironed out, the host of CBS' Late Show with David Letterman said: "Let me ask you this ... are you fascinated by legal detail? Listen to this: Conan O'Brien, he had The Tonight Show and now he's leaving, and NBC is negotiating with him ... he can't take his signature comedy bits with him. But that's OK, Jay will take them."
Besides targeting Letterman, Leno made a couple other cracks about the NBC mess in his Wednesday monologue. Alluding to the rain that's been pelting Southern California, he said it was ill-timed because "today was the day NBC was supposed to burn down the studio for the insurance money."
Letterman has been relentless in making fun of the shakeup involving O'Brien and Leno — particularly in depicting Leno as the heavy. On Tuesday's show, he discussed Leno's serious comments about his role in the whole situation. "I know. I know, it's not his fault. But it isn't funny that he always turns up at the scene of a crime."
Meanwhile, O'Brien continued to joke about his negotiations with NBC over what will almost certainly be his exit from the network.
"It's been reported that before I agree to a final settlement with this network I want to make sure NBC takes care of my staff," he said in his monologue Wednesday. "At first they thought I was gullible — they said the staff would be taken to a big farm where they'd be allowed to run free forever."