Jay Leno interview: ‘Boom … my face caught on fire’

Jay Leno, the guru of the garage, did not mince words describing the accident that put him into intensive care.

“And suddenly, boom, I got a face full of gas,” Leno said. “And then the pilot light jumped and my face caught on fire.”

In a televised interview on NBC’s “Today” show, the comic looked only a little worse for wear, and he’s now back on stage doing standup after nine days at the Grossman Burn Center in Los Angeles. He was burned last month while he and his friend Dave Killackey were working on one of Leno’s vintage automobiles, a 1907 White Steam Car.

Describing the accident, Leno said that he had asked Killackey to blow some air through a clogged fuel line, when gasoline erupted and a pilot flame ignited it.

“I couldn’t even see his face,” said Killackey, who joined Leno in the interview. “He downplays it all, but I’m telling you, he was really engulfed. It was a wall of fire right in front of me.”

Killackey right away pulled his friend out from under the car. “I just grabbed him,” he said. “I grabbed him by the head, and I pulled his head into my chest.” He pointed Leno toward the bathroom to sluice cold water on his face while he put out the car fire and called 911.

Amazingly, Leno then drove himself home to alert his wife, Mavis, who sent him off to the hospital. He had suffered burns on his face, chest and hands. He spent eight hours a day isolated in a hyperbaric chamber, where the pure oxygen helped the healing.

Asked if he was concerned that he’d damaged his good looks, Leno said, “When you look like me, you don’t really worry about what you look like … if I’m George Clooney it’s going to be a huge problem, but they said it would be all right, so my attitude is I trust people who are the best to do what they do.”

On the air, Leno said of his ordeal, “You have to laugh at it, it is sort of funny.” Unable to pass up a laugh, Leno, was asked if he’d be skittish going under the hood in the future.

“Did I learn from this? Of course not.”

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