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TODAY   |  January 27, 2014

Fallon to Leno: ‘I hope I make you proud’

Jay Leno and his “Tonight Show” successor Jimmy Fallon sit down with TODAY’s Matt Lauer in an exclusive interview. “I really admire him as a comic,” Leno says of Fallon.

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>>> let's start this half hour with a "today" exclusive. we met up with jay leno and jimmy fallon for their first joint interview as they prepare for the next chapter in their professional lives.

>> this could have been awkward.

>> oh, yeah.

>> history has shown this can be awkward.

>> yeah.

>> what -- how much effort has it taken not to make it awkward?

>> oh, 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 he wasn't here, would i still be here?

>> probably another year or so.

>> how do you describe the job?

>> exciting, fun. i think it's the greatest job in show business . the only job i ever wanted.

>> are you ready to hand over the keys?

>> yeah. of course, of course. please, no problem. tonight tonight who cares who hosts tonight

>> what do you think this relationship is?

>> it's a professional relationship. i really admire him as a comic. i remember the first time i saw, i think it was neil young , and it was really him, he captured the essence of the guy. and that's what comedy is. i admire his professionalism and his ability to do comedy. it's really good.

>> that was nice. no pressure.

>> top that.

>> gosh. i mean, obviously i look up to jay. and so we talk every couple of weeks or something like that. and i just love his attention to detail and how he roots for me all throughout " late night ." he'll give advice if i ask advice. and he'll say i saw that one piece, it was great.

>> do you expect to be welcomed into some kind of fraternity, or do you think the competition will be intense with the other guys?

>> i think for me, there's never anything tense.

>> excuse me, i'm sorry.

>> get jay more water. a different type of water.

>> he doesn't think there's going to be anything tense.

>> ridiculous.

>> really? i mean, maybe i have a lot to learn.

>> here's johnny !

>> my carson was carson because that's how old i am. and his carson was carson . was he your carson ?

>> my carson was carson daly .

>> and here he is -- jimmy fallon !

>> i think he's probably the closest to johnny of anybody else in " late night ." you know, a duet with justin timberlake or something, i can't do that. i write jokes.

>> yeah, i think i try to mix everything i've ever learned ever into the show whenever i can because i was just trying to keep people watching and keeping the show alive.

>> you think you'll miss the show?

>> oh, of course i'll miss the show. everybody saying, are you going to do another late night show? no, i'm not.

>> a month after, you pick up the trade, leno back to late night tv.

>> as a stand-up comedian, you know the stories of jay leno and how he's one of the best comedians out there. and i think, honestly, i think he's going to -- you're going to love this. he loves doing stand-up.

>> you think this is going to be different on the day you go from your show to this show? do you expect a major change in your life? or is it just going to be a different time slot ?

>> i don't know what to expect. i don't know. if it's going to be any different or what. i'm loving it, my job at 12:30 , 7:00 or whenever they air. and i go, it's great, no one bothers me, i'm on, doing our show. it's almost like no one knows i'm doing it. it's great. i'm very happy with this. and he says, enjoy it, buddy. and you're doing a good job. and with this one, i feel like there's more eyeballs.

>> sometimes when kids go off to college or summer camp , their dad or their mom will write them a note and they'll stick it in the suitcase so they find it when they get where they're going. i'm going to ask you to do me a favor, both of you.

>> all right.

>> i'll start with you. dear jimmy --

>> i would say don't do any joke you don't really believe in. i would say never put your personal opinion ahead of the joke. johnny never did that.

>> dear jay.

>> i would say, dear jay, i hope i make you proud.

>> pretty sure he will.

>> big shoes to fill. there is a lot of pressure about taking the reins of a show on so long. few have held the title of host.

>> there's excitement around jimmy fallon in all age groups, especially. the young kids who like his relationship with justin timberlake and the people around our age or at least my age who appreciate his history with "snl."

>> and seth myers .

>> yeah. right.

>> by the way, we're going to have more of that interview coming up next week