“The Tonight Show” is returning to New York with Jimmy Fallon as host.
Fallon will take over hosting duties from Jay Leno in the spring of 2014, NBC confirmed on Wednesday. Leno has hosted the show for 22 years in Burbank, Calif.
“I’m really excited to host a show that starts today instead of tomorrow,” Fallon said in a statement.
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Leno joked in the statement: “Congratulations Jimmy. I hope you're as lucky as me and hold on to the job until you're the old guy. If you need me, I'll be at the garage.”
Steve Burke, chief executive officer of NBCUniversal, called Leno an "entertainment icon."
“His long reign as the highest-rated late-night host is a testament to his work ethic and dedication to his viewers and to NBC," Burke said in the statement.
Leno and Fallon teamed up earlier this week to address news reports of the transition with a humorous parody of the "West Side Story" song "Tonight."
"The Tonight Show" has been based in Burbank since Johnny Carson moved it west in 1972.
The show will return to its original home in New York, where it was first conceived in 1954. The show will be taped at 30 Rock and executive-produced by Emmy-winning “Saturday Night Live” creator Lorne Michaels.
At the time of his departure, Leno will have the distinction of being the second longest serving host of the nightly entertainment program. "The Tonight Show" began airing in 1954 with Steve Allen behind the main desk. He remained until 1957 when he was succeeded by Jack Paar (1957–1962), who was followed by Carson (1962–1992), then Leno (1992–2009, 2010–2014) and Conan O'Brien (2009–2010).
When Carson stepped down in 1992 it was rumored that David Letterman, the then-host of NBC's late-night spot immediately following “The Tonight Show,” would be his successor. Soon after Leno was announced to the position, Letterman decamped to CBS where he has hosted the “Late Show with David Letterman” in the same time slot as “Tonight” ever since.
In a switch that garnered as much publicity as the Carson/Leno/Letterman change, current host Leno departed the program in 2009 to move into prime time with “The Jay Leno Show,” which would air at 10 p.m. and be a lead-in to “The Tonight Show.” Conan O’Brien took the reins as host and the show was moved from Burbank to a new studio located on the back lot of Universal Studios Hollywood.
It was a short-lived change. After only eight months O’Brien left NBC when negotiations to keep him as host of the show – albeit in a later time period – broke down following the announcement that Leno would be returning to the coveted late-night slot. The move came on the heels of a ratings falter at “Tonight” and conjecture over the success of “The Jay Leno Show” in prime time. O’Brien returned to late-night television that same year hosting “Conan” on the cable channel TBS. Leno resumed his host duties on "The Tonight Show" and brought the program back to the Burbank studio.
In an interview with the New York Times, Leno addressed the impending Fallon hand-over by dispelling rumors that the negotiations were not amicable or in any way similar to the O'Brien brouhaha. “The main difference between this and the other time is I’m part of the process. The last time the decision was made without me. I came into work one day and — you’re out,” he said, adding that this time around “there really aren’t any complications like there were the last time. This time it feels right.”
As for his future plans after stepping down, Leno, who will turn 64 in 2014 and has been married to his wife Mavis for 33 years, told the New York Times that he expects to be “back on the road, being a comedian again.”