Veteran US late-night TV host Jay Leno will bow out after 22 years on the “Tonight Show” next year, making way for the young star Jimmy Fallon, NBC announced Wednesday.
Confirming weeks of reports, the broadcaster said production of the iconic show will move from Los Angeles to New York, where Fallon’s “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” is already made.
“Congratulations Jimmy,” said Leno, who will hand over the microphone when his contract ends next year. “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, 38, added: “I’m really excited to host a show that starts today instead of tomorrow” — referring to moving from his current show’s after midnight time slot to “Tonight,” which airs at 11:35 pm.
Sixty-two year-old Leno’s relations with NBC have been strained of late after the burly TV host made a series of gags in his opening monologues about the network’s poor ratings, and his bosses.
In one just after St Patrick’s Day, he said: “You know the whole legend of St Patrick, right? St Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland — and then they came to the United States and became NBC executives.”
But NBCUniversal head Steve Burke hailed Leno Wednesday. “Jay Leno is an entertainment icon, making millions of people laugh every week night for more than 20 years,” he said.
“His long reign as the highest-rated late-night host is a testament to his work ethic and dedication to his viewers. 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,” he added.
The swap will be the second time Leno has left the “Tonight Show” in five years, after his botched 2009 replacement by Conan O’Brien triggered a ratings slump, leading to his return within months.