April 4, 2013 at 8:20 AM ET
Wednesday's announcement that Jay Leno would be stepping down from "The Tonight Show" hosting duties on NBC to make room for "Late Night's" Jimmy Fallon in Spring 2014 clearly had the staffs of every late night show scrambling to rewrite their opening monologues -- because everyone had something to say!
First, there was the back-patting; this transition is being done with an air of friendliness that did not necessarily characterize the one that brought Conan O'Brien into "Tonight's" seat for a few months in 2009.
"He is a hell of a guy!" said Leno last night to his audience about Fallon. "He's going to do a great job. I just have one request for Jimmy: We've all fought, kicked and scratched to get this network up to fifth place. Now we have to keep it there! Jimmy, don't let it slip into sixth! We are counting on you."
Over at "Late Night," Fallon acknowledged that his shift was the big news of the day: "Hello! Welcome!" he began. "This is 'Late Night With Jimmy Fallon' -- for now," he said. "You guys probably heard the news -- I’m going to be taking over 'The Tonight Show' next February! But don't worry. Until February, our focus is right here on whatever this show is called."
Added Fallon, "I want to thank everyone here at 'Late Night,' the staff, the crew and, of course, The Roots. I have to say thanks to Jay Leno for being so gracious. It means so much to me to have his support. I just want to thank the fans for staying up to 12:35 a.m. and watching us."
Over on the other networks, former "Late Night" host David Letterman played up the story for laughs on CBS' "Late Show." Letterman was notoriously angered not to have been offered the "Tonight" show gig himself in 1992 when Leno was tapped, and that feud hasn't faded over the last 22 years.
"I got a call from my mom today," said Letterman, who also devoted his Top 10 list to Leno. "She says, 'Well, David, I see you didn't get 'The Tonight Show' again."
Leno wasn't about to let it go unsaid, either, quipping, "Folks, I got to be honest with you, I had a really awkward day today," he said in the opening. "I had to call David Letterman and tell him he didn't get 'The Tonight Show' again. Awful! Terrible!"
The Hollywood Reporter noted that Letterman also referenced the O'Brien issue, questioning not Fallon but the choice to make another switch: "Didn’t we just go through this?" he said. "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."
Speaking of O'Brien, he also addressed the topic around the 30-minute mark of his TBS show "Conan." "I want to congratulate Jimmy. That is a really fun gig." His audience laughed, and he followed up: "You laugh, he said, but it really is. Jimmy is the perfect guy to do it. ... He's going to do a fantastic job. So congratulations, Jimmy."
The one broadcast late night host who doesn't have any dog in this race, Jimmy Kimmel, also had something to say.
"It is a big one for the world of late-night television," said Kimmel in his "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" monologue on ABC, according to The Hollywood Reporter. "As you probably heard -- it was announced officially today -- that, starting in February of next year -- after the Olympics -- I will take over as new host of 'The Tonight Show.' I spoke to Jay on the phone today." A member of his staff interrupted. "Excuse me for one moment. ... OK. Um, apparently it was a different Jimmy."
He read one of the headlines about the changeup on his cell phone and added, "Turns out I will not be hosting 'The Tonight Show.' Does anyone know what the return policy is on yachts?"
In the end, though, it was largely friendly banter and Fallon's ascension to the throne (which will move, along with the show, to New York City), seems to have gone over well. But Leno had one last warning: "NBC says in five years, they plan to replace Jimmy with Justin Bieber," he said. "They are moving too quickly!"
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