But the embattled late-night comedian this morning tried to draw a parallel between their careers.
“You and I will go down together,” Leno told the talk show maven. “You and I will hold hands and walk out into the sunset together. You’re not going anywhere, I’m not going anywhere.”
Oprah is going somewhere, though. The talk show queen last fall announced that she would be ending her top-rated daytime talk show in 2011, and move forward with her OWN network plans.
It was an awkward turn for Leno, who appeared on Oprah's show just a week after NBC announced that he would be reinstated as “The Tonight Show” host on March 1. The announcement ended a weeks-long battle between him, Conan O’Brien and the network over the future of the late night institution.
Flagging ratings for both Jay Leno’s primetime show and “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” prompted the network to take action. Faced with pressure from their affiliates who were upset with low lead-in numbers for their nightly newscasts, NBC first canceled Leno’s show.
Oprah asked him why he didn’t just leave the network when executives told him the show was axed.
“Why didn’t you just walk away?” Oprah asked Leno
“If you’re a gun fighter, you like to die in the street,” Leno replied. “How many times have you retired?”
When Oprah reminded Leno that she was in fact leaving her show, he laughed off her plans.
“We’ll see,” he said.
Taking a more serious tact, Leno said he felt it would have been more of an egotistical decision to walk away from his show than to fight for his staff and accept the invitation from NBC to take back "The Tonight Show."
“By walking away, that is me going, no. Goodbye everybody … to me, that is the ego decision.”