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Letterman, who famously lost out on hosting The Tonight Show to Jay Leno, prompting his move to CBS in 1993 — made jokes about it in his monologue and even did a Leno-themed Top 10 list: “Things We’ll Miss About Jay Leno.”
Among the entries:
5. “If you broke down on the freeway, Jay was always right there with a camera crew to help.
4. “Can’t remember the name of the bit, but it’s the one where Jay is walking.”
3. “He’s mom’s favorite talk show host.”
He also joked about the “white smoke coming out of the chimney at NBC.” Other barbs:
— “I got a call from my mom today. She says, ‘Well, David, I see you didn’t get The Tonight Show again.’ ”
— “Didn’t we just go through this? Jay Leno now is being replaced, and this is the second time this has happened. I mean, it’s crazy. He’s being replaced by a younger late-night talk show host — what could possibly go wrong? Honestly. They had pretty good luck with this in the past.”
— “NBC, God bless ’em, announced the official date for Jay Leno’s departure. No mention of his official date of return, however.”
— “I happen to know Jay’s got another job on a network that has greater viewership, higher ratings: Univision.”
Also during the show, Letterman offered his congratulations on a “nice long run there at The Tonight Show, if in fact you’re not coming back.”
“I mean, how many times can a guy be pushed out of the job,” he said to the audience. “And what’s the matter with NBC? What’s the matter with these guys? You know, honestly, what are they thinking? … And, as with everything in life, all I really care about is: How will this affect me? That’s all I really care about. And, Paul, is there any way NBC can push me out of this job? Can they do that?”
Watch video from Wednesday’s Late Show below.
NBC confirmed the news a month after The Hollywood Reporter revealed that the network was preparing an exit plan for Leno. THR reported Tuesday that Fallon had signed the Tonight deal and that Saturday Night Live stalwart Seth Meyers is being eyed as his Late Night replacement.
When Fallon takes over, Tonight will return to 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York, where it will be executive produced by Fallon’s former Saturday Night Live boss Lorne Michaels.
Meanwhile, sources tell THR that Fallon’s staff gathered after Wednesday’s Late Night taping to toast the news.
Leno has been host of Tonight since 1992, save for seven months in 2009-10 when Conan O’Brien took over and Leno launched a short-lived nightly primetime show on NBC.
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