The “Tonight Show” torch is about to be passed, when Jay Leno says goodbye (again) and Jimmy Fallon takes over. At first, it seemed as though everyone involved was fairly excited about the transition, but Leno recently told “60 Minutes” that leaving was “not [his] decision” this time around either.
This week, Leno and Fallon sat down with “Today” anchor Matt Lauer to talk about the move and it’s a decidedly more friendly atmosphere, though you still have to wonder how Leno really feels about it all.
When asked how much effort it is taking not to make it awkward (since last time Leno left “The Tonight Show,” it was really awkward), Leno says, “I would say hardly any effort at all. No effort at all. I mean, this time I was asked, the last time I was told, ‘This is what’s happening.’ If [Fallon] wasn’t here, would I still be here? Probably, another year or so.”
Lauer also asks Leno if he’s ready to hand over the keys to Fallon and he says, “Of course! Of course. Yes. Yes. Please. No problem.” Leno then describes his relationship with Fallon as “a professional relationship.”
“I really admire him as a comic, I think he’s a really good performer. … I admire his professionalism and his ability to do comedy,” says Leno.
Fallon adds, “Obviously, I look up to Jay. We talk every couple weeks. I just love his attention to detail and how he roots for me all throughout late-night.”
In a funny moment, Lauer asks Fallon if there’s going to be tension between him and the guys he’s going to be airing opposite now (David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel) and Fallon says, “I think for me there’s never anything tense. [Leno cough-laughs] Maybe I have a lot to learn.”
Lauer also asks them to “write” a letter to each other and Leno says to Fallon, “I would say, ‘Don’t do any joke you don’t really believe it.’ I would say, ‘Never put your personal opinion ahead of the joke. Johnny [Carson] never did that.'”
Fallon responds, “I would say, ‘Dear Jay, I hope I make you proud.'”
Leno’s last night on “Tonight” airs Thursday, Feb. 6, with Fallon taking over on Monday, Feb. 17.