Jay Leno about leaving 'Tonight': 'This feels right this time'
This week, Jay Leno slips the keys into the California house that Johnny Carson built and locks up. Despite a few landlord issues during his 22-year occupancy of “The Tonight Show,” he's kept the place in tiptop shape.
“We've been No. 1, and we're leaving No. 1, and I feel good about that,” Leno says backstage after wrapping yet another “Tonight Show,” a run that ends Feb. 6. Jimmy Fallon kicks off in New York on Feb. 17.
“People say, ‘You could have gotten another couple of years,' but I don't know, then it becomes diminishing returns,” he says. “This feels right this time.”
Leno's ease has much to do with his palpable affection for his successor.
“I like Jimmy,” says Leno, 63, adding that the two often send pizzas to each other. “There's a genuine generation gap — I could be his dad. But Johnny was 36 when he took over, and Jimmy's still in his 30s (39). That's a huge shift, and that's the shift that should be going on. Go all the way back, then bring it all the way forward.”
As for what's next, Leno isn't showing his cards, except to insist that he won't become a couch potato. Stand-up comedy will continue to fill his schedule; he routinely logged more than 100 dates a year while hosting the late-night franchise.
“I'm hitting the road. I've got Sarasota on the seventh, Clearwater on the eighth, Miami on the ninth,” he says. “I'm not really retiring.”
Leno's abiding passion beyond “The Tonight Show” has been collecting and restoring vintage cars. That could well be where we see his silver mane pop up next on TV, perhaps expanding his popular online video series, “Jay Leno's Garage.”
“We have half a billion hits online now,” he says. “But I'm definitely going to do a lot more with that. There's more to do there.”
NBC brass are simply leaving the door open.
“I don't want to be unrealistic, (but) there are a bunch of things I'd love him to do that we discussed in some detail,” says Robert Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment. “I wouldn't do a series. It would be specials or some other kinds of shows that wouldn't be a talk show.”
Leno agrees. “No, you can't re-create this. I don't want to do ‘The Tonight Show'-lite. If you come back and you're not No. 1, then it's, ‘Jay sucks!' ” he says with an easy laugh.
“We did this, and it worked really well, thank you.”
Marco della Cava is a staff writer for USA Today.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Not to be left behind, speedy Steelers are on the fast track in NFL
- The IRS scandal: Do the Lois Lerner emails still exist?
- Rossi: Steelers will make small strides this season
- Customers anxious for details about Highmark transition plan for W. Pa.
- Steelers have plenty of new faces at wide receiver
- In last preseason game, a final audition for some Steelers
- Jury deliberating sex assault charges against ice cream shop owner
- Annual Rib Festival at Heinz Field promises plentiful good food, music
- McKeesport Area teacher fired amid sex scandal returns to school
- Penguins GM insists new coach Johnston was no afterthought
- Starkey: Bucs still battlin’