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Jay Leno will receive the Kennedy Center's Mark Twain Prize for American Humor

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.

When asked for comment about Leno’s award, the comedy community… had a few things to say.

Jay Leno was 'blindsided' by Conan replacement, but thinks Fallon on 'Tonight' makes 'perfect sense' -- VIDEO

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.


Jimmy Fallon reveals his lunar 'Tonight Show' logo

This is really happening, people.

Late Night host Jimmy Fallon has just tweeted out the logo for his revamped Tonight Show, premiering next February after the Olympics on NBC. The all-caps letters are reminiscent of Fallon’s Late Night logo. The full orb may be making you thirsty for a beer. It seems more modern than current Tonight host Jay Leno’s own logo — and it’s also got approximately 90 percent more moon.


What will Jay Leno do next?


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).

Go to cable: READ FULL STORY

New York City makes play to lure 'Tonight Show' back

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

Jay Leno strikes again at NBC


You gotta hand it to Jay Leno; the dude’s got guts. On Tuesday’s installment of The Tonight Show, the late-night host took another swipe at NBC’s poor ratings — a day after he referred to the top execs as “snakes.”

“Did you hear about this? A 28-year-old woman from Serbia has a rare brain condition where she sees everything upside down,” Leno said in Tuesday’s monologue. “The good news? She’s now been given a job at the White House as President Obama’s economic adviser. Isn’t that crazy? It’s unbelievable. She sees everything upside down. In fact, she thinks NBC is at the top of the ratings.” READ FULL STORY


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