Howard decided to honor Stuttering John this morning, even though he wasn't able to come into the studio. Howard reported that when he learned John couldn't make the trip to New York for the segment, he offered to have him call in instead, but that John refused to do so.
Howard then mentioned that John was an important part of the program for many years, and that his celebrity interviews provided him with some of his favorite moments.
The first such moment Howard played was when John and A.J. Benza exchanged punches in the hall.
In the clip, A.J., who was auditioning at the time for the seat Jackie had recently vacated, accused John of letting in only negative calls about him, which, when added to John's own harassment of A.J., really upset him.
When A.J. pointed this out to John, he responded by challenging A.J. to a fight, which led to the infamous scuffle.
After the tape, Gary remembered that he was standing between John and A.J. before the punch and that he ended up taking a fist to the side of the face as a result of it.
Will reported that John was so hard on A.J. because he was jealous that he was not only getting an opportunity to take Jackie's spot, but that he wasn't even a comedian.
Artie responded that although he and John became good friends, he also noticed a bit of hostility from him when he first started appearing on the show.
Fingering the Real Culprit
After also retiring clips of John talking to Walter Cronkite, Billy Crystal, Bruce Willis, Ted Williams, astronaut James Lovell and Bea Arthur, Ralph called in to say that hearing those tapes left a bad taste in this mouth. Ralph explained that he didn't like the way John left the show, and therefore couldn't separate that feeling from hearing the clips.
Despite his opinion, Howard told Ralph that Jay Leno was the only person involved in John's departure from the show who warranted a negative opinion. Howard went on to note that Jay could've called him and let him know of his plan to hire John, and that he would've been fine with the decision.
Howard added, though, that Jay didn't say a word about the situation, and instead secretly took John away with the hopes that the move would bring some of the program's listeners to "The Tonight Show."
Although Robin mentioned that she heard John was the one who prevented Jay from making the announcement, Howard said he was sticking with the version of the story he had heard. Howard also reported that he saw John at Ross Zapin's wedding this past summer and that he's doing well both financially and with his family. Howard proceeded to say that he and John had a nice conversation that day and that he holds no animosity toward him.