A burn injury is not going to keep Jay Leno down.
The comedian, 72, appeared on “Today” with Hoda Kotb Wednesday to discuss the events leading up to his Nov. 12 gasoline accident that left serious burns on his face, neck and chest and the recovery since.
“I had to get on fire to get on the ‘Today’ show,” Leno joked at the start of the interview.
Leno shared that his friend Dave Killackey was by his side working on one of his vintage cars on the day of the incident.
“It was a 1907 White Steam Car,” Leno recalled. “The fuel line was clogged so I was underneath it. It sounded clogged and I said, ‘Blow some air through the line,’ and so he did.”
He continued, “And suddenly, boom, I got a face full of gas. And then the pilot light jumped and my face caught on fire.”
Jay Leno released from hospital 10 days after fire burned face, neck, chest
“And I said to my friend, I said, ‘Dave, I’m on fire.’ And Dave’s like, ‘All right.’ I said, ‘No, Dave, I’m on fire.’ And then, ‘Oh, my God.’ Dave, my friend, pulled me out and jumped on top of me and kind of smothered the fire,” Leno said.
Killackey, who joined Leno for the interview, recalled hugging Leno into his shirt to smother the flames and telling his friend to immediately pour cold water on his face while he sought out help.
“I couldn’t see his face. It was a wall of fire,” Leno’s friend added. “He downplays it but it was horrific.”
Leno’s injuries were treated with two surgeries at the Grossman Burn Center during a 10-day stay. To quicken his recovery from skin grafting procedures, he underwent hyperbaric oxygen therapy to minimize the progression of his burns.
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) December 14, 2022
The comedian said it was like laying in a “glass coffin” for eight hours a day. According to Mayo Clinic, this form of therapy involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized environment.
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Kotb asked Leno whether he was afraid to see what he looked like after the procedures to which he joked: “When you look like me you don’t really worry about what you look like. If I looked like George Clooney then it would be a problem.”
“This happens to people every day. I don’t wanna be some whiney celebrity,” Leno continued. “I have all these cars, a beautiful house… and look what happened to me. ‘Oh, shut up!'”
Kotb also questioned whether Leno is “skittish” around cars since his accident. “Did I learn from this? Of course not!” he quipped.
Leno first confirmed the accident in a Nov. 14 statement saying he had “serious” burns and would need “a week or two to get back on my feet.”
Dr. Peter Grossman gave updates on Leno’s condition during a press conference on Nov. 16, days after his injuries, saying the comedian had “pretty significant burns” to his face, hands and chest when he was pulled from under the car.
Leno’s initial burns were a mixture of “deep second degree burns and possibly some third degree burns,” the doctor said.