The Washington Post

Jay Leno, Jimmy Fallon try really hard to prove there’s no ‘Tonight Show’ drama

Jimmy Fallon (Lloyd Bishop/NBC/AP) Jimmy Fallon, future “Tonight Show” host. (Lloyd Bishop/NBC/AP)

Remember when Conan O’Brien took over “The Tonight Show” from Jay Leno and everything quickly imploded? Now, as Jimmy Fallon prepares to take over next month, NBC is working hard to make sure there’s no drama. To prove it, Leno has sat for a pair of  relatively cheerful TV interviews the last two days, on “Today” Monday morning (where Fallon joined) and “60 Minutes” Sunday night.

On “Today,” we were treated to scenes of Leno and Fallon sitting at a table with Matt Lauer, laughing and joking with each other, chatting about the late-night fraternity. Fallon just wants to make Leno proud. And the million dollar question: Is Leno actually leaving this time?

Of course! Leno insists. So what’s the difference between this time and last time, when NBC quickly reversed the wacky plan it hatched in 2004 to install Conan as “Tonight Show” host in 2009?

“I mean, this time, I was asked,” Leno said. “The last time I was sort of told, ‘This is what’s happening.'”

We’ll take his word for it — although Leno admitted that if Fallon didn’t come along, he probably would have stuck around for another year or so.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

What we learned during “60 Minutes”: No, Leno is not upset that he’s being pushed out in favor of Fallon, whom he acknowledges is part of a natural generational shift. (“When I see him do a dance number with, you know, Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z or somebody, I go, “I can’t do that.”) And no, he’s not planning to host another late night show, or come back to the “Tonight Show” for a third time.

And after all this time, Leno is adamant that he had nothing to do with Conan being forced to step down from the “Tonight Show” after just seven months on the job — he was simply asked to come back by NBC to stop the show’s ratings slide, so he did. Leno’s wife, Mavis, makes a rare appearance to confirm the story.

Of course, in the middle of Leno’s raving about the greatness of Fallon, Kroft reminded Leno that he had said all the same things about Conan just a few years ago.

“Did I say the same things?” Leno mused. “Yeah, probably. Well, maybe I did. Well, we’ll see what happens.”

Emily Yahr covers pop culture and entertainment for the Post. Follow her on Twitter @EmilyYahr.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Next Story
Ron Charles · January 27, 2014

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.