Following NBC’s confirmation Wednesday that Jimmy Fallon will take over “The Tonight Show” in February of next year, late-night hosts reacted to the news with a mixture of heartfelt congratulations for Fallon, gracious farewells to Jay Leno and harsh mockery for NBC.
On “Late Night,” Fallon admitted to having had an “emotional” day, and expressed his gratitude to his “Tonight” predecessor. “I have to say thanks to Jay Leno for being so gracious. It means so much to me to have his support.”
Leno congratulated Fallon, but mostly he used the opportunity to make fun of NBC and share some passive-aggressive advice with his soon-to-be replacement. “We’ve all fought and kicked and scratched to get this network up to fifth place. Now we have to keep it there. Don’t let it slip into sixth! We’re counting on you," he urged Fallon.
It was Leno’s arch-rival, David Letterman, who spent the most time discussing the “Tonight Show” news, joking during his monologue about the “white smoke coming out of the chimney at NBC,” and reminding viewers about the ugly succession battle for the show in 2010: “NBC, God bless ‘em, announced the official date for Jay Leno’s departure. No mention of his official date of return.”
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Although he couldn’t resist doing a few seconds of his high-pitched Leno impression, Letterman was surprisingly gracious about the looming retirement of his long-time nemesis. “Good luck to Jay. Congratulations on a nice long run there at ‘The Tonight Show,’” he said, before reading off “The Top 10 Things We’ll Miss About Jay Leno.” (No. 1: “Watching him interview big stars who won't do this show.”)
Even Conan O’Brien, the guy who had “The Tonight Show” taken away from him three years ago, weighed in on the news. Though he pointedly neglected to mention Leno, O’Brien had only kind words to say about Fallon. “I want to congratulate Jimmy, that is a really fun gig,” he said. “Jimmy is the perfect guy to do it. He’s going to do a fantastic job.”
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Last but not least, Jimmy Kimmel got in on the action, proudly announcing that he’d be taking over “The Tonight Show” in 2014, before correcting himself.
“Apparently it’s a different Jimmy," he said. "Does anybody know what the return policy is on a yacht?"
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