Jay Leno Ends His Run on The Tonight Show, Looks Forward to Doing Stand-Up Again
Jay Leno ended his run on The Tonight Show last night. After 22 years, he is stepping down and handing the show over to Jimmy Fallon. Talking about his successor, Leno said, "It's fun to kind of be the old guy and sit back here and see where the next generation takes this great institution. More gamely than convincingly, but it really is time to go and hand it off to the next guy, it really is." His last show featured Billy Crystal, the first guest he had on his show in 1992, and music by Garth Brooks. He had cameos from celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Carol Burnett and Kim Kardashian and President Obama even paid his respects in a taped message. Leno ended the show quoting Johnny Carson's words, "I bid you all a heartfelt goodnight."
The LA Times spoke with Leno backstage at "Tonight" recently, and got his thoughts on the departure and the Conan incident. There is an exerpt below, read the full article here.
You've said that leaving "Tonight" now feels "about right." But I can't imagine you're happy.
I'm not unhappy. This is a great franchise, and you like to keep it No. 1. I'm real proud we've been able to keep it No. 1. You know, there are people who like you and people who don't like you. "You suck, you stink." Whatever it is. But like baseball scores, like football scores, at the end here's the results. We've kept the show No. 1 for 20 years straight. And we've won every demographic group, all this kind of stuff. And eventually you hit diminishing returns.
Look, if NBC didn't have Jimmy Fallon in the wings, would I be here a little longer? Probably. But you know, he's really good. I really like him. He's a true couple of generations away from me. When I see him do his musical numbers and stuff, I say, "I can't do that. That music is not my music."
So what are you going to do?
I've always been a stand-up comedian that had a day job. This is my day job. I've always been on the road every single weekend - and the week too - since I got this job. So I'm back on the road. We leave here on the 6th. The 7th I'm in Sarasota. The 8th I'm in Clearwater. The 9th I'm in Naples, Fla. The 10th I'm in Miami ...
It's what you have to do if you want to do comedy. You can't take a year off and come back. No one's ever taken time off as a comedian and come back and been better. It doesn't work that way. It atrophies. You have to do it all the time.
What about doing another late-night TV show?
No, I don't think so. I mean, the ground has to lie fallow for awhile, I think. I've been doing this a long time. I have no plans to go up against anybody else. People go, "Oh, Jay's waiting in the wings." It's so stupid.
If you come back and you're not No. 1 the first night, people are like, "Jay sucks!" The whole thing starts all over again. It all gets silly.