Some of my earliest memories of TV are of watching STEVE ALLEN. The first time I ever stayed up and saw the clock strike 12 midnight, I turned and saw him on TV. He was a guy who would talk to and treat young comedians as equals. When I first came out to Los Angeles, I could go up to him, even on the street, and talk to him--then after 10 minutes, it would dawn on me that I was talking with Steve Allen.
I know he composed songs, wrote books, played concerts, acted in plays and films. But for me, it was all about the comedy, the impeccable timing. He was the first comedian on TV that I knew of who wasn't a clown or a song- and-dance man from vaudeville. He was a regular guy who said funny things. He was also decent and moral and never tried to hurt anyone with his jokes.
He did the Tonight show live, so it was spontaneous. Every mistake and every flaw and, of course, every brilliant ad-lib and every saver was right there in front of your eyes. He was one of the sharpest guys off the cuff. He never played dumb. Rather, he played to his intellect. And he was as comfortable talking to the man on the street as with world leaders. The highest compliment my mom could give someone was that he was a nice man. Steve Allen was truly a nice man.
--Jay Leno, host of the Tonight Show