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Jay Leno Is Leaving the Tonight Show (Yes, Here We Go Again)

Jimmy Fallon (left) with Jay Leno at the 2013 Golden Globe Awards

“Leno Blesses ‘Tonight Show’ Succession Plan” reads the headline in today’s NY Times. Yes, Jay Leno is stepping down again from The Tonight Show. He’ll be replaced by Jimmy Fallon early next year.

If you’re over the age of 5, you may remember that it didn’t go so well the last time Leno stepped down. He left “voluntarily” in 2009 and was replaced by Conan O’Brien.  (Which is how Fallon got his current job as host of O’Brien’s old show, Late Night.)

But then Leno muscled his way back in by starting his own 10 o’clock show on NBC, saying “10 o’clock is the new 11:30.” That greased the skids for O’Brien to be fired after just eight months on the job, with Leno returning to the Tonight Show desk.

Jay Leno got another four years as host of the show he loves, but at the expense of his good-guy reputation. “Leno’s Taking It on the Chin” said the New York Post, in a story that began, “Blame Jay! Jay Leno is emerging as the villain responsible for ‘Tonight Show’ host Conan O’Brien’s imminent ouster at NBC.”

It all led to a famously bitter on-air quip from O’Brien: 

“Hosting ‘The Tonight Show’ has been the fulfillment of a life-long dream for me. And I just want to say to the kids out there watching, you can do anything you want in life. Unless Jay Leno wants to do it, too.”

But this time, says Leno, it’s different:

“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,” he added. “This time it feels right.”

Will it still “feel right” to Leno in 2015? Stay tuned.

See our history of Tonight Show Hosts from 1953 to today »


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