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Behind the Curtain: An Insider's View of Jay Leno's Tonight Show Hardcover – July 10, 2014


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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

            [Jay] Leno's penchant for topicality and Berg's news background combined to add a political sensibility and relevancy to Tonight's monologue and guest bookings, which is a big reason it became America's go-to, late-night show. But success was never a foregone conclusion. Leno and his producers formulated a strategy to become number-one, and Berg reveals how they did it. 
 
In Berg's Behind the Curtain, Leno is portrayed as one of Hollywood's good guys, to be sure, but he's far more nuanced, complex and edgy than media profiles have suggested. His uncanny ability to read America's pulse better than anyone else in late-night television is the single most important reason The Tonight Show was number-one for so long during his watch.    
 
            Leno never lost sight of his goal, which was to bring a little entertainment into people's lives before they went to sleep each night. Similarly, Behind the Curtain is mostly just a fun read, full of never-before-told anecdotes about Leno and the guests who appeared on Tonight with him. 

From the Back Cover

"The fact that Dave Berg's politics were mostly the opposite of mine and yet he never let that affect his encouragement of my comedy on The Tonight Show is reason enough to recommend this book. The other is . . . I requested a chapter to read and, after that, wanted to read the whole book. Because Jay Leno is somehow Everyman and simultaneously the most idiosyncratic guy in the world, and Dave Berg tells you how."

—Bill Maher, comedian and host of HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher

"Jay Leno is sui generis and Dave Berg is the one-of-a-kind, colorful, and astute chronicler of the individual and collective dynamic that propels timeless and accessible humor, the thing that makes the world go round. Dave does an eye-opening, insider's job revealing in a narrative with fun anecdotes what it was like to be behind the scenes at The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Along the way, Dave also sets the record straight about the enormous contributions Jay Leno made to late-night television, contributions critics have overlooked or been too quick to dismiss."

 >—James Carville and Mary Matalin, political consultants

"In Behind the Curtain: An Insider's View of Jay Leno's Tonight Show, co-producer Dave Berg has captured the essence of Jay's day-to-day commitment and the backstage experience beautifully . . . The book is an entertaining read and tells the story with wit, love and insight, not the usual Hollywood gossip."

—Gary Sinise, Oscar-nominated actor, film director, and musician

"If I ever put together a baseball team of people that are special to me Dave would be at the top of the order. He's written a great book about both Tonight Shows, the one on stage and the one behind the curtain. . . . Love ya Dave!"

—Dan Whitney, comedian, better known as "Larry the Cable Guy"

"It was always a pleasure to appear on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Jay and his long-time producer Dave Berg would welcome me to the green room, and these moments before the show gave us a chance to laugh. Jay and Dave brought a great spirit and a lot of dignity to late-night television."

—Mrs. Laura Bush, former First Lady of the United States

"Dave Berg knows everything about late-night TV. And if you read Behind the Curtain: An Insider's View of Jay Leno's Tonight Show, so will you. A very entertaining and informative book."

—-Bill O'Reilly, host of Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Pelican Publishing (July 10, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1455619965
  • ISBN-13: 978-1455619962
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (312 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,009 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dave Berg is a writer and a columnist and was a co-producer for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The Jay Leno Show, where he also appeared in numerous comedy sketches. He was a producer for The O'Reilly Factor, a writer for NBC News and the Los Angeles bureau chief for CNBC. He has written for USA Today, The Huffington Post, Reader's Digest, National Review, Christianity Today, The Washington Times, The Daily Caller and Crisis Magazine. He has a BA in political science from Northwestern University and an MS in journalism from Kansas State University. Berg lives with his wife Mary in Los Angeles.

Please see Dave's website at getbehindthecurtain.com.

Customer Reviews

Very interesting behind the scenes book.
Marion Gunter
Mr. late night, Jay Leno has a long run as host of the Tonight Show.
Dr. Wilson Trivino
I did enjoy the book it was an easy read and was very interesting.
Billy J. Adams

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 53 people found the following review helpful By David J. Vernon on June 19, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Most of us have no idea what it takes to produce a successful television variety show five days a week, forty six weeks each year (who knew for example, that Jay only takes six weeks vacation a year, while Letterman takes twelve?). Rather than a 'tell-all' in the tawdry sense, Behind the Curtain describes in delightful detail what it takes to stay on top of the ratings wars in the hotly contested late-night talk show time slot, while booking the most sought after guests, and wrangling the most difficult ones. Told from the perspective of a true insider, Mr. Berg helps the reader come away after reading this book feeling like you really "know" Jay - his quirks and foibles - without the feeling that you're reading a valentine to the old boss.

There are plenty of celebrities exposed as difficult and high maintenance, yet learning the decisions that were made to present the now infamous Hugh Grant interview for maximum ratings effectiveness is genuinely compelling journalism. The problem with most Hollywood 'tell-alls' is that they are long on dirt and short on substance. Behind the Curtain was written by a former print and television journalist who has taken pains to explain why as well as what. It is a quick read because it is fun and well-written.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Nathan A. Gordon on July 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Think about it: My review of "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" co-producer Dave Berg's book about the inner workings of the broadcast is the 52nd for a book that has been available through Amazon for less than a week. This speaks to Jay's popularity among a certain "baby boom" demo that doesn't quite know where to go at late night anymore to get their needed jolt of humor.

Berg--for the most part--provides the reader with a substantial amount of the "behind-the-curtain" drama that went on behind Jay's NBC career. What was particularly interesting was Berg indicating that the producers had access to the television ratings at 15-minute intervals and they could tell who their nightly audience liked--and didn't like--as the show continued to 12:36. Those who caused a ratings decline would often find themselves locked out.

Berg--as expected--lasers off all or any of Jay Leno's warts as either a performer or person and gives him a near-perfect portrayal. Since the book provides many otherwise hard-to-get show biz snippets and inside takes, I found this transgression to not really get in the way of Berg's story especially since there is indeed lots to like about Jay.

Apparently, there is absolutely no room for error in the late night talk show game. A large part of the book describes the daily war that goes on among all of the shows for guest bookings. There was a constant concern that one bad show would cause the show to lose momentum and give its competitors a real boost. By the same token, it was important to sometimes be lucky (think Hugh Grant) which Berg, like many others, cites as the immediate reason why David Letterman lost his two-year reign as late night champ after only two years in 1995.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Laurie Tidwell on July 18, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As an avid viewer of Johnny Carson, I disliked guest celebrity hosts when Johnny went on vacation. Then Jay Leno became the permanent guest host and it was all good. I'm surprised David Letterman didn't see it coming when Jay was chosen to succeed Johnny. It's like NBC was grooming Jay for the job.

After hearing about the book, I couldn't wait for it to arrive. It's an easy read; funny, organized, and takes the reader right from the beginning in 1992 to the end Feb. 6, 2014. It was a book I couldn't put down until I was getting toward the end. Then like any good book, you read slower because you don't want it to end. Dennis Rodman and John Kennedy Jr. were the hit stories for me. Getting the "gets" shows how a producer works hard to make that sale. Apparently you have to know someone who knows someone, etc. to get that important contact. Dave Berg's rolodex must have been really, really big.

This book is a "must read" for anyone loving Leno. Dave really shows incite into the real Jay Leno, and I love him even more after seeing the personal side and the boss-employee side of Jay.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Twinger on July 3, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Fantastic read! Although, I don't think I should have read this book in public since there were many times I audibly laughed out loud at the stories shared. I highly recommend this book! Talk about an honest, behind the scenes (or curtain should I say?) look at one of the best produced shows on TV. Dave doesn't mix words and shares his stories and feelings on topics that typically are reserved for private family time. If you ever wish you could be a fly on the wall in Jay's world, this is the book for you.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By John F. Grannis on July 13, 2014
Format: Hardcover
In "Behind the Curtain," Dave Berg gives us a glimpse at the human side of Jay Leno. We see Jay as a working class guy who never lost his working class values (the story about window shopping in Beverly Hills is priceless). He comes across in this wonderful book as a man who achieved success the old fashioned way - he worked hard, he hired talented people (including the talented Mr. Berg), and he always, always paid attention to the things that made the rest of us laugh. No wonder Jay was #1 for all those years. A very entertaining and informative read!
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