Jay Leno

Jay Leno on Why He Rejected the Idea of Going to Burn Center After Catching on Fire

The funnyman says he initially drove himself home instead of going to the hospital.

Jay Leno didn’t exactly rush to get medical treatment after his face, chest and hands caught fire last month when he was working on one of his vintage cars.

Leno, a well-known car enthusiast, sat down with TODAY's Hoda Kotb in an exclusive interview that aired in full Dec. 14, where he explained he was working on a 1907 White Steam car with his friend Dave Killackey when the pilot light jumped and he caught on fire.

After Killackey helped smother the flames, Leno went to the bathroom to put cold water on his face. They called 911, but Leno elected to go home instead of a burn unit, like doctors suggested.

“I drove home right after that,” he told Hoda during the interview.

Indeed, the former "Tonight Show" host, 72, got behind the wheel and headed home — in a bid to make things easier on his wife, Mavis.

“My wife doesn’t drive anymore and I didn’t want her stuck and not knowing what was going on,” he said. “It just seemed like the right thing to do and I think it was.”

“So you loved your wife more than you were worried about yourself,” Hoda said.

“Yeah, that’s it. Yeah,” Leno joked in response before earnestly adding, “Well, I think there’s something to that.”

And while Leno initially rejected the idea of going to the hospital, Hoda asked if his wife was in favor of it.

"Of course," he answered.

The TV host and comedian was working in his Los Angeles garage when one of the cars burst into flames, a source close to Jay Leno confirmed to NBC News.

Leno would spend the next nine days at the Grossman Burn Center, in West Hills, California, and would spend eight hours a day isolated in a hyperbaric chamber, allowing oxygen to help him recover.

His doctor at the hospital told NBC News he suffered burns on “approximately 7% of his body," but the funnyman never got bogged down in thinking about how his appearance may change.

“When you look like me, you don’t really worry about what you look like,” he said. “Look, if I’m George Clooney, it’s going to be a huge problem. But they said it would be alright so, you know my attitude is I trust people who are the best to do what they do.”

Less than two weeks after he was released from the hospital, Leno returned to the stage and has shown he’s managed to take the incident in stride.

“It worked out great and actually the most expensive part of the whole operation was the gasoline. We’re in California, it’s seven bucks a gallon,” he joked to Hoda.

Leno said laughing about the ordeal is key.

“In the real world, this happens to people every single day. If you work with your hands, people work with their hands, get injured every single day. And I don’t want to be some whiny celebrity, ‘Boo hoo is me,’” he said while pretending to cry.

“I don’t want to be one of those people. ‘Oh, I have all these cars and beautiful house and look what happened to me.’ People would be like, ‘Shut up!’”

Leno’s experience captured headlines and even caught the attention of President Joe Biden, who called him to pass along his best wishes.

“Oh yeah. so President Biden called. That was very nice. I said, ‘I’m surprised you don’t have more important things to do. Thank you, Mr. President. I appreciate it!’”

This story first appeared on TODAY.com. More from TODAY:

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