It’s not every day you get an expected international call and it’s not every day that it’s from a famous American TV chat host. Jay Leno doesn’t just so happen to be any A listed celeb. For someone so at ease to talking to the great and the good it’s hard to imagine that he has dyslexia — it’s also hard to imagine that someone so at home in Hollywood was at one time not well known at all and that he was arrested twice for vagrancy.
But Jay has always been upbeat about his dyslexia and has been known to encourage and help others in similar circumstances. Rising to the challenge and realizing that he would have to spend an extra hour doing school work to compensate for it, was never a huge problem to him. ‘I never had it so severe that I could flunk it.’
By the age of 19 he was doing stand-up comedy but his Greenock born mother had other ideas and took the ‘traditional Scottish view’ that she wanted him to go to college and get a degree ‘to get something to fall back on just in case comedy didn’t work out’. But Jay had other ideas and found a suitable degree course in speech therapy – for Jay the idea of not sitting exams and only needing to do a 15-minute talk at the end was what he wanted. Even for him it was ‘pretty easy’ because by this time he had already served his ‘apprenticeship’ on stage as a comedian. When he got his degree, he presented it to his mother. When eventually he got success and his own chat show his mother took the ‘traditional Scottish view’ and told him ‘not to stand out from the crowd’. But by that time, it was too late.
His general opinion about dyslexia is that ‘it’s good to turn a negative into a positive’ but he doesn’t think having dyslexia is an advantage or disadvantage — ‘it’s just a matter of using what you have and just dealing with it, everyone is different. You can have a low IQ and you can have a high IQ’. When he was younger he never thought of it, but nowadays ‘it tends to be pointed out’. For Jay the invention of the iPad has helped and assisted with his spelling which he says is ‘horrible’.
But for Jay his joy outside of the TV studio is his garage that he has chosen to fill with 160 cars and about 130 motorbikes. He doesn’t have a Scottish built Hillman Imp, even though he admits that ‘they do look funny’.