It's Official: Jay Leno Is Leaving the "Tonight Show" Next Spring, and Jimmy Fallon Will Replace Him
JAY LENO has confirmed the rampant speculation that he's leaving the "Tonight Show" next year, and that JIMMY FALLON will be his successor. The handoff will happen sometime soon after NBC airs the Winter Olympics next February. In a statement, Leno said, "Congratulations Jimmy. I hope you're as lucky as me and hold on to the job until you're the old guy. If you need me, I'll be at the garage."
Fallon joked, "I'm really excited to host a show that starts today instead of tomorrow." Apparently, Leno ISN'T planning on looming in the background for a few months and re-taking the show, like he did with CONAN O'BRIEN a few years ago. He said, "The main difference between this, and the other time, is I'm part of the process. The last time the decision was made without me. I came into work one day and, you're out. This time around] there really aren't any complications like there were the last time. This time it feels right."
It's unclear if Leno actually WANTS to retire, but NBC did give him the option of continuing until his contract is up in September of NEXT year, but Leno liked the idea of using the hype around the Olympics to give him a proper send-off, and to promote Fallon's takeover. Leno says, "'The Tonight Show' was #1 when I got it, I've kept it #1 for about 90% of my term here, and I'd like to see Jimmy keep it at #1, which I'm sure he will." Fallon returned the love saying, "I have nothing but respect for Jay. If it weren't for him, I wouldn't have a show to be taking over."
So what's next for Leno? Well, he claims he's interested in hitting the road and returning to his stand-up career, but he isn't ruling out another late night show. He says, "There are a lot of things to do. I've done this job for a long time, and I really enjoy it. Would I do it again? Believe me, the phone's not ringing off the hook. It will be nice if people seem interested. But I'll let it sit where it is."
Also, as rumored the "Tonight Show" will be moving from Los Angeles to New York. There's no official word who will replace Fallon on "Late Night", but there's been talk that "Saturday Night Live's" SETH MEYERS may be at the top of the list. "SNL" boss LORNE MICHAELS also executive produces "Late Night". We assume he'll remain on that show, although NBC says he'll become the executive producer of the "Tonight Show" when Fallon takes over.
Leno has hosted the "Tonight Show" for 21 years, except for the eight months Conan had it from June of 2009 to January of 2010.