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A lot of criticism has been levied at celebrity Jay Leno throughout the years (there was even a book written about his experience taking over as the host of The Tonight Show), but no one can deny that he was one of the hardest working men in show business. Leno apparently crafted his work ethic well before his time as a comedian.

Jay Leno shrugging in front of a gray background
Jay Leno | Christopher Polk/Getty Images

One of Leno’s first jobs was working at McDonald’s, where he had a job that helped him build one part of his body in particular. Here’s the story of what Leno did while he was working there that strangely gave him an unusual workout. 

Jay Leno’s first job wasn’t in show business

Leno did one of the hardest things anyone in show business has ever done: replace a legend. In 1992, Leno assumed hosting duties of The Tonight Show, taking over from Johnny Carson. Leno’s debut on the show was marked by controversy, as NBC chose him over Carson’s hand-picked successor, David Letterman. After a rocky start, Leno became the ratings leader in late-night TV for many years. 

But before he did that, he worked at a McDonald’s in Andover, Massachusetts, according to CNBC. Leno said:

“I worked at a restaurant on Main Street for two years, from 1966 to 1968. This was back in the good old days when they still had roast beef and strawberry shortcake, which I was a huge fan of.”

There was one activity, in particular, Leno engaged in at work that left him looking much more buff than before if he’s to be believed. It involved McDonald’s famous fries. 

Here’s what Jay Leno did at McDonald’s that gave him massive forearms

So how did Leno earn his keep working at the famous fast-food chain? He was on fry duty – sort of. Rather than work as a fry cook, Leno helped prepare the potatoes for cooking later on. Leno said:

“The French fries had to be made from scratch. We had to cut what seemed like a ton of potatoes every day … I had these massive forearms from cutting those potatoes.”

It’s almost a comical image, thinking of Leno possessing the arms of Popeye while slicing potatoes. But that’s how he made a living for some time before making it big. After Leno left McDonald’s, he later tried his hand at comedy, and the rest was history. 

Jay Leno doesn’t need to peel potatoes anymore


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Of course, Leno became a comedian who would go on to achieve worldwide fame and fortune. By any standard, he’s one of the most successful late-night hosts of all time. He had high ratings over the course of his long career at NBC. 

Leno has profited nicely off of his success. According to Celebrity Net Worth, he has a net worth of $450 million. Aside from being a famous comedian who still tours performing stand-up comedy, Leno is also well known for collecting classic cars. 

It shows how far he’s come. Leno started off his professional career cutting potatoes so much it looked like he had done curls all day. Now? He can afford just about any car he wants to buy. That’s quite a stark contrast to his days as a McDonald’s employee.