"Conan O'Brien has been a gentleman, he's a good guy, I have no animosity towards him," said Jay Leno this week.
But according to insiders, in reality, Leno thinks O'Brien is a snob and O'Brien thinks Leno is just not funny. It has a lot to do with their backgrounds. Leno's upbringing was solidly middle class, his mother was a stay at home mom and his dad sold insurance. He consider's O'Brien, whose father was a doctor, an upper class snob.
O'brien went to Harvard where he edited the satirical Harvard Lampoon magazine. After college he got a job as a writer on Saturday Night Live and later wrote for The Simpsons.
Those revelations are contained n a Chicago Sun Times article, Leno, O'Brien Never Pals, in which a long time Leno associate is also quoted saying "Leno has always been skeptical of Conan."
J. Max Robbins of the Paley Center For Media says, "Jay Leno is more in the mold of Carson and another generation of comics and he plays really well in middle America. I think he has a broader appeal. Conan O'Brien is a guy who wrote for The Simpsons, worked on Saturday Night Live and went to Harvard. Different schools here."
In 1993 Conan was plucked from obscurity to take over the Late Night show from David Letterman. Jay Leno introduced him, and even he could scarcely believe O'Brien's good fortune, asking O'Brien, "And right here tonight is your first time on TV?"
Leno, on the other hand, had struggled his way to the top, doing years of stand-up gigs. One of his first national TV appearances was on The Mike Douglas Show in 1978.
As for their comedic styles, an O'Brien staff member says Leno is out of touch, "He's really pretty dated as far as most of us are concerned."
Now their behind-the-scenes feud is playing out in a very ugly and public way - nightly, on our TV screens.