After hosting The Tonight Show with great success for 22 years, Jay Leno says he is simply too old for the job. On February 6, he will hand over the ball to his successor Jimmy Fallon, who will kick off his first episode on February 17.
Leno took over The Tonight Show from Johnny Carson in 1992, and made it one of the best viewed shows on television. In 2009, he was asked to leave the show, only to come back only a year later, after Conan O’Brien’s ratings were severely lacking. Although Leno still enjoys hosting the show, he thinks it is time to move on. “This is a great job, but it is time for the older generation to make room for the younger generation. I do not listen to current music, I do not follow Twitter and as a 63-year old guy, I am just too old for the job,” Leno says.
Leno has devoted a big part of his career to The Tonight Show, but never stopped performing in comedy clubs. With his final episode coming up, he says expanding his gigs is his main goal for the nearby future. In addition, he will continue to write for various newspapers and magazines as well as expand his web show called Jay Leno’s Garage, which he started out of a passion for automotive. For Leno, it is nothing but excitement and more freedom. “I can go out on school nights now. I have not been out on a school night in 22 years,” he says.
On Monday, his successor Jimmy Fallon was one of the guests on The Tonight Show, resulting into the highest ratings on a Monday since Leno came back to the show as a host in 2010. In a thank-you note, Fallon thanks Leno for passing the torch to him, stating he will do his best to make Leno proud, every single day. Fallon also mentions Leno is the nicest guy in the business.
With Fallon taking over Leno’s position, he is also making some changes. While the show has been in California during Leno’s tenure, Fallon will now move the show to New York City, leaving the current staff unemployed unless they wish to apply for a position in the show’s new hometown.
During his 22-year tenure, Leno says he always took Hollywood with a grain of salt. Many colleagues have called Leno extremely un-show business and to Leno, this is no surprise. He grew up in a modest environment in New England and remains close to high school friends until this day. He has been married to his wife Mavis for 30 years and says, “Hollywood is a great place to tell jokes to a big audience and to make big money, but I have always stayed away from the circus as much as possible.”
On his last show, Leno will welcome Garth Brooks and special guest Billy Crystal, who was his first ever guest and will also be his last. Convinced that he is too old for the job, Leno says he looks forward to stepping down as a host this week, to travel to Florida with his wife and say goodbye to The Tonight Show.
By Diana Herst