At least this time, Jay Leno got a say in how he was going to leave The Tonight Show.
In an interview with the New York Times, Leno described his departure from the No. 1 late night franchise as being far different from what happened in 2009, when he was replaced (for seven months) by Conan O’Brien. “The main difference between this and the other time is I’m part of the process. The last time the decision was made without me. I came into work one day and — you’re out,” Leno told the newspaper. “This time there really aren’t any complications like there were the last time. This time it feels right.”
In fact, it was Leno who suggested that Jimmy Fallon take over the franchise after the Winter Olympics in 2014, since the games would provide a good promotional platform for his younger successor. “The Tonight Show was No. 1 when I got it,” Leno said. “I’ve kept it No. 1 for about 90 percent of my term here, and I would like to see Jimmy keep it at No. 1, which I’m sure he will.
“I’m glad I’ve kept it No. 1,” Leno, 64, continued. “When I started people said, ‘Oh the only reason you’re winning is because of ER, or ‘the only reason you’re winning is because Hugh Grant came on and said that one thing.’ Well, at least now I can say the only reason we’re winning is ’cause we’re winning.”
After leaving the show, Leno said he will continue to play comedy clubs. He also seemed to downplay the idea that he’d jump to Fox, the only broadcast net without a daily latenight show. “There are a lot of things to do. I’ve done this job for a long time, and I really enjoy it. Would I do it again? Believe me, the phone’s not ringing off the hook. It will be nice if people seem interested. But I’ll let it sit where it is.”