Billy was born with a congenital heart defect that prevented his lungs taking in enough oxygen to breathe, and would have died had it not been for life-saving postnatal surgery.
As Kimmel explains, shortly after Billy’s birth, he received a call from the man he’d been insulting since 2010.
“Jay and I have made peace,” Kimmel said, who hammered Leno mercilessly during NBC’s late-night debacle that saw Leno step down from Tonight only to jump back in after Conan O’Brien’s short tenure as host.
“After my son had his operation, he called me and he was very nice,” he added, admitting that he and Leno have buried the hatchet.
“You can’t argue with [Leno’s] success and his longevity,” he said. “I will say, when I was in high school and college, he was one of my all-time favourite comics.”
Kimmel famously blindsided Leno during a via-satellite appearance on his short-lived Jay Leno Show (which aired before O’Brien’s Tonight Show and was perceived to be hobbling O’Brien’s chances of building his own audience).
During Leno’s “10 at 10” segment, Leno asked Kimmel to recall the best prank he ever pulled, resulting in a bitingly hilarious and painfully awkward response.
“I told a guy that five years from now I’m gonna give you my show,” Kimmel quipped. “And then when the five years came I gave it to him and then I took it back almost instantly.”
Later in the same interview, Kimmel remarked that he didn’t like going to strip clubs in Vegas “because you have this phony relationship with them for money. Similar to that of when you and Conan were on The Tonight Show together.”
Then, when Leno asked if there was anything he’d like to host that he hadn’t yet, Kimmel fired back: “Oh this is a trick, right? Where you get me to host The Tonight Show and then take it back from me?”
In the years since, Kimmel continually slagged Leno in the press (once calling him “a sellout”), and now admits that it was his love for David Letterman that probably fed the anger, citing the book The Late Shift and its detailed account of Leno scheming and conniving to ensure he took over The Tonight Show from retiring Johnny Carson by outmaneuvering heir apparent Letterman
“You have to remember how much I love David Letterman,” he told THR. “When all that stuff happened, I was just a fan, reading Bill Carter’s book, and there was a villain and a hero, and Dave was the hero and Jay was the villain. I started off with a negative feeling about it. I sometimes insert myself into situations I have no business inserting myself into.”