“It’s good to be home,” he told the appreciative audience as he began his monologue. “I’m Jay Leno, your host. At least, for a while.”
“We were off for the last couple of weeks,” Leno quipped. “Kind of like the Russians at the Olympics. Woo! What happened to them?”
Leno's return to the "Tonight Show" came just 9-months after he left the show to O'Brien and began hosting another talk show in prime time. According to Nielson ratings from 56 markets across the nation, the show drew a 5.4 rating and 14 percent share of the viewing audience. Letterman drew a 3.0 rating and 8 percent share.
After both Leno's experiment and O'Brien's version of "Tonight" posted low ratings, NBC took the step to reinstall Leno in his old seat and let O'Brien leave. The tension between the hosts and the network played out on the airwaves and was the subject of ridicule among many observers -- and the comedians themselves.
On Monday, Leno again took jabs at his bosses.
While announcing Olympic gold medal winning skier Lindsey Vonn would be his first guest, Leno turned to the audience and said: “Did you see her? When it comes to going downhill, nobody is faster. OK, except NBC.”
Along with Vonn, actor and singer Jamie Foxx helped usher Leno's reoccupation of the desk at "Tonight." Brad Paisley was the musical guest.
Over at CBS, Letterman briefly referenced his rival's return, opening his monologue on the "Late Show" a reintroduction of his own. "Thank you very much, welcome to the ‘Late Show,’ my name is Dave Letterman — same time, same host,” he said.
Leno beat Letterman in the late night talk show wars for 15 out of the 17 years he held the perch at "Tonight."