When EW chose Jimmy Fallon as Entertainer of the Year, there was one person we knew we wanted to get in touch with for some insight: Johnny Carson. But since he wasn’t available (read: died in 2005), we hit up Jay Leno instead and got his thoughts on Fallon’s Tonight Show and the franchise’s evolution in general. And Leno had plenty of praise for Fallon. “He’s probably more like Johnny than any other host,” he told us. “Not that there’s been that many hosts. But Johnny was very boyish when he was 40 years old, and Johnny had some musical skills as well.”
On Jimmy as a host:
“I don’t watch every night, but I watch and I enjoy—and I enjoy Seth [Meyers], too. Jimmy’s a really great mimic. When I saw him do Neil Young, I just thought it he was lip-syncing the song. But no—he really captures the nuances really well. It’s different. Everybody has their strengths and weaknesses. I could never do a musical parody—it’s just not what’s in me.”
Jay Leno is revving his engine and returning to television. CNBC has announced that the former Tonight Show star will host Jay Leno’s Garage, based on the comedian’s Emmy-winning web series. In August, Leno and CNBC collaborated on a one-hour special, Jay Leno’s Garage: The Ultimate Car Week. The new show will premiere in 2015. READ FULL STORY
The Kennedy Center announced today that former Tonight Show host Jay Leno will receive its 17th annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, comedy’s highest honor. (Past recipients include Carol Burnett, Bill Cosby, George Carlin, Lily Tomlin, and Bob Newhart.) The award will be presented at a ceremony to be held Sunday, Oct. 19 in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall; it will air nationwide on PBS stations Nov. 23.
“Like Mark Twain, Jay Leno has offered us a lifetime’s worth of humorous commentary on American daily life,” Kennedy Center chairman David Rubenstein said while announcing the award. “For both men, no one was too high or too low to escape their wit, and we are all the better for it.”
“What an honor!” Leno quipped in a statement. “I’m a big fan of Mark Twain’s. In fact, A Tale of Two Cities is one of my favorite books!”
The comedian got his start in standup and went on to host NBC’s Tonight Show in 1992, taking over for the retired Johnny Carson. He stuck with late night’s longest-lived franchise (on and off) until February of this year, when he formally retired from Tonight. Throughout his TV career, Leno has kept up a relentless touring schedule, making over 100 live appearances at venues across the country each year.
How did Jay Leno really feel in 2009, when NBC revealed its master plan to hand The Tonight Show over to Conan O’Brien? The comedian doesn’t mince words in an upcoming interview with 60 Minutes, telling Steve Kroft that the decision took him completely by surprise. “I was blindsided,” he says, according to CBS News.
And though Leno adds that he never asked his corporate overlords to explain their reasoning, hearing he was being replaced felt like being rejected by his girlfriend: “You know, you have a girl [who] says, ‘I don’t want to see you anymore.’ Why? You know, she doesn’t want to see you anymore, okay?”
This time around, though, Leno seems much more at peace with the network’s machinations — even though, as the host notes in the clip below, he “probably would have stayed [on Tonight]a little longer” if he had his druthers.
That said, Leno adds, “it’s not my decision” — and he believes that bringing in “an extremely qualified young guy” like Jimmy Fallon, whom Leno likens to “a young Johnny [Carson],” makes “perfect sense.” So maybe this isn’t a happy ending for Leno — but at least it’s one he can understand.
Not surprisingly, a flurry of reports have surfaced that Jay Leno, the reigning King of Late Night, is already fielding inquiries from other networks about doing a new show once Jimmy Fallon succeeds him on The Tonight Show in April. With NBC unlikely to find him another spot — we all remember how that Leno-in-primetime experiment turned out — moving to another network makes sense for the host, and one option in particular could make for an attractive third chapter in his career: CNN.
You haven’t heard? Despite denials from CNN reps, insiders insist that CNN President Jeff Zucker — Leno’s old boss at NBC — met with the 63-year-old comedian about hosting a late-night show for the cable news network. Apparently, this is something that Zucker’s wanted for some time: he’s reportedly been on the lookout for a Daily Show-like program to help shore up their late evening ratings. And the cable network could certainly use a positive headline or two; Zucker and the net have been dogged with poor ratings and lackluster reviews since he took over the news network last year.
Leno would make an ideal addition to CNN, if only because he offers what even Piers Morgan sometimes struggles to achieve: a good interview. Guests have long singled out Leno’s desk to tell all, primarily because the senior comedian queries them in a friendly, non-threatening manner. Who knows what newsmakers he could attract if he were to headline a show on CNN?
Even more important, Leno could come with a strong and dedicated fan base. Season to date, Tonight is off to its biggest start 12 weeks into a new TV season in three years and continues to beat Jimmy Kimmel and David Letterman. He’s up 11 percent in 18-49 viewers (with 1.133 million vs. 1.025 million last season) and up 10 percent in total viewers (3.821 million vs. 3.465 million). Tonight has attracted bigger 18-49 audiences than Late Show for the last 56 weeks in a row and topped Kimmel for 45 of their 49 head-to-head weeks. In total viewers, Jay has out-delivered Late Show for 60 weeks in a row and Kimmel for 49 of 49 weeks.
Tonight, a certain Celebrity Apprentice-winning comedian will revive his early-’90s syndicated late-night talk show, The Arsenio Hall Show. Should we warm him up by asking him a few Stupid Questions? Hall, yes!
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: If the ’90s version of you time-traveled to the present to be a guest on your show, what’s the first thing you’d say to yourself, after all the fist-pumping and woof-woofing died down? ARSENIO HALL: “A lot less hair and shoulder pads, my friend!”
Bill Clinton played sax on your show in what would prove to be a historic politics-as-entertainment moment. Did you ever in your wildest dreams think that it would pave the way one day for Mike Huckabee to play bass on Leno?
No wonder I can’t book Paul McCartney. Somewhere right now he just threw up in his mouth a little. What a horrible road I’ve paved if that’s how it ended. Huckabee — oh, man. I’m surprised he didn’t wear stretch pants on Leno. Homey has no pocket. READ FULL STORY
Which late night host has such slippery floors that Melissa McCarthy “consider[s] it a victory” if she doesn’t fall? Which one did the Heat star once mistake for a lookalike? And who does McCarthy think was born to helm a network talk show?
Find out in this clip from the actress’s interview with Entertainment Weekly managing editor Jess Cagle, which aired this week on EW’s Sirius XM channel. Bonus: You’ll also get to hear a quick snippet of Jess’s ace Leno impression.
So he’s really leaving The Tonight Show. Now what? Will the top-rated late-night host really just… fade away? Or will Jay Leno pop-up again, in an 11:30 p.m slot somewhere, grinning and aw-shucking and saying, “Hello! Have you heard about this? You read about this? Yeah, I’m still here! Amazing! Thank you!”
A survey of late-night and broadcast TV insiders disagreed on Leno’s next step. Like, radically disagreed. But some opinions were more common than others. Here are some of Leno’s possible options:
Go to Fox: Less likely than you might think. Every time Fox has tried to launch a late-night show it’s been a mess. Despite an affiliate president recently breaking ranks to make it sound like his station group would be on board with clearing Leno, every major local market throughout the country would have to make a hole, preferably in the same time slot, and that’s very tough to do with all the various programming commitments in place. “They say they want it but then say, ‘But we have [a sitcom repeat] in that slot!'” one insider noted. Besides, Fox will face some of the same issues NBC had with Leno: He is not the future of late night, and Fox is not the kind of network that wants to invest in older-skewing programming. Noted one late-night insider: “Executives are always asking themselves: ‘How do I look if I make this decision?’ If you plunk down $100 million for a new Jay Leno show, it’s too risky and there’s nothing cool about it.”
Take over CBS’ Late Show if Letterman retires in 2014: Nobody thinks this will happen. Leno has been CBS’ competitor too long; it’s like Coke having a conjugal visit with Pepsi — it just feels wrong. Even if Dave retires (and most seem to think he’ll stay for one more round) CBS will opt for somebody younger to take over the franchise, like Stephen Colbert. Also, those familiar with Leno’s thinking insist — contrary to his online reputation — he’s not looking to try and rain on Fallon’s parade by doing a rival show (especially after all the negative press he garnered during the Conan O’Brien debacle three years ago).
If New York isn’t trying hard to lure The Tonight Show back to Manhattan, it’s doing a pretty good impression.
A Cuomo administration official said Thursday that New York is trying to lure TV shows from California with a proposed tax credit program and the Tonight show would qualify if it decides to move back to Manhattan. The show moved to Burbank in 1972 when Johnny Carson was host.
But there is no deal with NBC or the Tonight show, and the official wouldn’t say if the state is trying to attract the show. The person wasn’t authorized to comment on any potential deals and spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.
Still, a bill in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s pending budget looks like it’s all about Tonight, without ever mentioning the iconic show that began broadcasting in the 1950s from Manhattan and has featured a series of popular hosts — Jack Parr, Steve Allen, Carson, and the current Jay Leno. READ FULL STORY