Jay Leno Announces His Departure from 'The Tonight Show' in Spring 2014; Jimmy Fallon Will Be New Host

Categories: 1-Featured,Late Night TV Ratings,Network TV Press Releases

Written By

April 3rd, 2013


via press release:


Jimmy Fallon (NBC’s “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon”) to Assume Reins of Iconic Franchise as Host


UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. – April 03, 2013 – Jay Leno, longtime host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” announced today that he will wrap up what will be 22 years of headlining the iconic late-night show in Spring 2014. NBC also announced today that Jimmy Fallon, now host of NBC’s “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” will transition into new hosting duties on “The Tonight Show” franchise after Leno concludes his successful run.


As part of the transition, “The Tonight Show” will be returning to its original home in 30 Rock in New York and will be executive-produced by Emmy Award winner Lorne Michaels (“Saturday Night Live,” “30 Rock”).


Programming plans for the 12:35 a.m. (ET) time period currently are in development and will be announced soon.


Said Leno: “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.”


Said Fallon: “I’m really excited to host a show that starts today instead of tomorrow.”


“Jay Leno is an entertainment icon, making millions of people laugh every weeknight for more than 20 years,” said Steve Burke, Chief Executive Officer of NBCUniversal. “His long reign as the highest-rated late-night host is a testament to his work ethic and dedication to his viewers and to NBC.


“We are purposefully making this change when Jay is #1, just as Jay replaced Johnny Carson when he was #1. Jimmy Fallon is a unique talent and this is his time. I’m thrilled he will become the sixth host of ‘The Tonight Show’ at exactly the right moment, in conjunction with our coverage of next year's Winter Olympic Games from Sochi, Russia.


“I also want to congratulate and thank Debbie Vickers and her ‘Tonight Show’ team for producing an entertaining, first-class show every night for the past two decades. Debbie’s role in the creative and popular success of this franchise cannot be overstated.”


Leno has hosted “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” since taking over the reins from television icon Johnny Carson in 1992.


“The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” has ranked #1 ahead of its ABC and CBS time-period competition in 18-49 viewers and total viewers for each season since Leno’s return in March 2010 and for the 14 seasons before his departure in May 2009. During the current season, “Tonight” is consistently #1 versus its ABC and CBS slot rivals, averaging a 0.8 rating, 3 share in adults 18-49 and 3.5 million viewers overall.


At 12:35 a.m. ET, “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” has consistently ranked #1 in 18-49 versus the time period’s ABC and CBS competition each season since debuting in March of 2009 and has also held the advantage over CBS’s “Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” in total viewers for the last three seasons. So far during the 2012-13 season, “Late Night” is averaging a 0.5 rating, 3 share in adults 18-49 and 1.7 million viewers overall.


Before Leno became the host of the top-rated "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," he honed his comedy in clubs all over the country often exceeding 300 dates per year. He opened for the likes of Tom Jones and John Denver and after moving to Los Angeles began his career in television and film, both writing behind the scenes and making appearances in shows such as "Welcome Back Kotter" and films including "American Hot Wax." On March 2, 1977, Leno made his first appearance on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" and was named permanent guest host in 1987. While he took over the desk full-time in 1992, Leno never stopped touring on the comedy circuit and still averages over 150 gigs a year.


Emmy and Grammy Award winner, Fallon began his TV career with “Saturday Night Live” in 1998, where he quickly became an audience favorite. Known for his spot-on impressions, innovative musical and comedy sketches and his stint as co-anchor of “Weekend Update” with Tina Fey, Fallon spent six successful years on the show. In March 2009, Fallon returned to NBC and took over the late- night legacy with “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” The show has continued to garner attention for its viral videos, audience games, A-list guests, and Fallon’s choice of critically acclaimed house-band, The Roots.


In just four years on air, Fallon and the "Late Night" team have already begun collecting awards. Most recently, Fallon was honored with his second consecutive People’s Choice Award for Favorite Late Night Host (2012 and 2013) and the show received the 2012 Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Talk Show. “Late Night” was celebrated with a 2012 Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Variety Series and earned three Emmy nominations in 2011, including the show’s first nominations in the series and writing categories. The year prior, Fallon earned an Emmy for the show’s website in the Interactive Media category and received the “Webby Person of the Year” Award in 2009. Fallon received a 2013 Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album after releasing “Blow Your Pants Off” in 2012, a musical comedy album featuring song parodies written and performed on “Late Night.”



  • Fakeem

    Posted April 3, 2013 at 10:14 AM
    Arsenio Hall is on Fox. Leno better not attempt going to Fox or what’s left of his reputation will be done in.

    Not a Fox show. In Philly, he will be on the MyNetwork affiliate, so my guess is he’s syndicated.

  • Seth

    Magic Johnson should have gotten the Tonight Show, he’s paid his dues

  • CookyMonzta

    Good riddance. NBC screwed the pooch in trying to make Leno a hit in primetime, and when that failed, they both panicked, and threw Conan under the bus when when Leno should have been the bigger man and walked off into the sunset.

    There will be no late-night show on FOX for Leno. They tried that once with Joan Rivers, then fired her, and left Arsenio to carry that show. When he left the show to film ‘Harlem Nights’, they got Ross Shafer, and soon thereafter the show was canceled. They will not pour money into a relic whose best days are WAAAAY behind him.

    Posted April 3, 2013 at 10:14 AM
    “Arsenio Hall is on Fox. Leno better not attempt going to Fox or what’s left of his reputation will be done in.”

    Arsenio will be on CW this fall. If he is still as hip to what is in the public eye today, I’ll give him 3 years. As an example of what’s hip today, electronic dance has made another surge (like it did in 2002-05); only now the other genres are heavily incorporating sounds familiar to longtime EDM fans (like myself, 31 years now). You’re likely to see a barrage of such artists on Arsenio.

    There will not be a show on FOX for Leno. Like I said before, they tried for 2 bumpy years with ‘The Late Show’, starting with Rivers and ending with Shafer, and failed.

  • CookyMonzta

    Posted April 3, 2013 at 2:00 PM
    “Magic Johnson should have gotten the Tonight Show, he’s paid his dues”

    He once had a show on FOX (‘The Magic Hour’). I don’t think it lasted a full season (Sept. to May). But you are right.

  • TV Addict

    Though I love Jimmy, HE IS NOT FUNNY! Oh well, maybe he’ll rise to the occasion. But I honestly don’t care because I don’t watch any late night talk show. So good for Jimmy! Keeping the “J”s alive on Tonight.

  • NBC Fan


  • clinging to my god

    I wonder how long it’s going to take Fallon to lose the #1 spot for NBC…I have a feeling NBC will never have the #1 spot again…..

  • Alex

    It’ll be interesting to see what, if anything, Leno does when he leaves Tonight. Unless he wants to sell a show directly into syndication there doesn’t appear to be a slot for him on broadcast and the cable market is incredibly crowded these days. The good news for Fallon though seems to be that Leno is not just leaving Tonight but seemingly NBC as well. And all credit to Fallon after a very rough start on Late Night he’s found his groove and is making a really good show hopefully that’ll continue on Tonight.

    In terms of the future of Late Night I don’t for one second buy the theory that it’ll go. If NBC wants to cut costs in the late night slots they’d get rid of everything after Late Night not Late Night which is clearly the testing/breeding ground for Tonight Show hosts at this point. Seth Meyers is the name getting thrown around the most but I kind of hope NBC goes in a more adventurous direction.

  • Neil

    It’s Déjà vu all over again.

  • Chris

    Yeah, it’ll be interesting to see what that venomous little toad Leno will do this time, since I’m sure he’s no happier about this deal than he was when NBC (correctly) wanted to replace him with Conan and get a jump on a younger demographic.

    Fallon’s lucky that the last Tonight Show hosting debacle burned off most of Leno’s clout with NBC, as that will hopefully prevent the old bastard from clawing his way back into the job. Hopefully.

    Actually, now that I think about it, Fallon should probably plan on driving a stake into Leno’s shriveled heart as soon as the handover is complete. Just to be sure.

  • richard

    i dont like leno as a comedian, just isnt funny. however, all you conan people should think about maybe letting that whole conan thing go. i didnt really see that as lenos fault, more NBC’s. idk, just my opinion.

  • Aaron

    I wonder who will replace Letterman.

  • Paul

    The logic doesn’t add up. Fallon has the same popularity and viewers that Conan had when they tried to move him up. His viewers only went up about 25% when he moved to 11:30 making the show a ratings failure. So they expect Fallon to gain a million viewers and go from 1.5 million viewers to 2.5 in order to compete for third place? It will take better than two and a half million to even beat Kimmel on ABC. But keep in mind Kimmel had great numbers before they moved up his time slot (better than 2 million sometimes). He got a nice surge of about 20% or more moving up to 11:30. This is NOT going to happen with Fallon, if it does than NBC pulled off a magic trick. One that they tried with Conan and it didn’t even come close to working. PLUS if Leno goes to Fox at 11 pm, it’s going to make the competition even harder. NBC will surely be going from first to last place on the Late Night wars after this!

  • Brad

    “Leno didn’t screw Conan, NBC executives did and Jeff Zucker even admitted as such that it was his fault the whole mess started. David Letterman needs to get the entitlement out of his head that he was entitled to the Tonight Show. It was NBC’s show to give away and they gave it to Jay.” – Kit

    Most logical explanation ever

  • Nita

    I will be sad to see Jay Leno leave the Tonight Show. He has been the best late night host so far. Fallon seems to be grateful and has been very respectful of Jay’s feeling. However, he doesn’t have the same “it” factor that Jay has. Even tho’ Letterman, Kimmel, and Conan were jealous and made hateful remarks about Jay Leno, his show continued to be #l every night. Late night will not be the same.

  • petra

    GET RID OF LETTERMAN. He isn’t funny and he is older than Jay. Let Jay take Letterman’s place. Also, Jimmy Kimmel isn’t a threat, he isn’t funny at all.

  • Dan

    Jay will quickly be forgotten. Are people going to say wow, I sure miss Jaywalking?

    Joe Adalian at Vulture just posted a great article. I won’t post it all but here is a highlight. You can go to Vulture to read it all.

    “The Late Night Wars Can Finally Declare a Winner: David Letterman

    Leno hurt his chances at leaving a legacy by opting to do a show that, almost by design, has been completely disposable. His Tonight had a couple sketch franchises – “Headlines” and “Jaywalking” — but neither is particularly inspired or enduring. The main reason he first jumped ahead of Dave in the ratings was because he focused on (and super-sized) his monologue, to the detriment of almost everything else on Tonight. It was a smart move for Leno for the near-term: Everyone watched Jay to hear his O.J. jokes, to see him skewer Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal. But monologues don’t stick in the mind. Making the first fifteen minutes of Tonight must-see TV was the right move for winning the ratings race, but it contributed nothing to defining Leno for history, except perhaps introducing his Dancing Itos. Johnny Carson’s monologue was also a core staple of his show, something no one missed. But his interplay with Ed McMahon and his frequent sketches were just as important: When you think of the endless tribute reels to Carson, you think of Ed Ames and the tomahawk and Carson doing Carnac, you don’t think of any of his jokes. Letterman too does a monologue, but it’s more obligatory: In the early years he would only do four or five jokes, and they served more as a parody of a monologue. In recent years it has grown longer, most likely because the notoriously rehearsal-phobic host seems no longer interested in innovating any kind of desk bit. But if you take a longer-range look at his late-night career, you can instantly fondly conjure many memorable moments, whether ongoing segments (Stupid Human Tricks, Viewer Mail, Will It Float?) or frequent guests with whom he had such memorable – and often confrontational – chemistry (Rupert Jee, Jack Hanna, Kamarr the Discount Magician). His recurring bits will linger because they were conceptual, not topical; Jay told jokes.”

  • Dan

    The worst talk show ever is gone. Great news!!!

  • Dan

    Above comment not mine, different Dan. I’m not a Leno fan however I can think of some worse talk shows than his.

  • Tom

    I disagree with Dan I think Headlines and Jaywalking will live on much more than any of Letterman’s segments. Also, Leno clobbered Letterman in the ratings so I don’t see how Letterman won?

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