After 22 years and countless jokes Jay Leno has retired from the “Tonite Show.” He hosted his final show on February 6, 2014. He was joined by an impressive cavalcade of guests including Billy Crystal and Oprah Winfrey, among many others. The show evoked a range of emotions – humor, poignancy and sadness. Now, it’s on to Jimmy Fallon, a very talented and versatile performer who represents the next generation.
James Douglas Muir “Jay” Leno was born on April 28, 1950 in New Rochelle, NY. He was raised in Andover, MA, outside of Boston, although he normally identifies himself as a “Boston guy.” He has a very distinctive physical feature known as mandibular prognathism, in layman’s terms, a prominent chin. He has been married to the same woman, Mavis, for 34 years, a rarity in Hollywood where many celebrities change spouses as often as they change their shirts. They have no children, but they do have a cat. In addition, Jay has one of the most comprehensive private car collections you will find. Cars are his passion. Jay never seems to take vacations. For him, its work, work, work.
Jay was the host of the “Tonite” Show for such a long time that many people are not cognizant of the fact that he had a long career before that gig. He didn’t just appear magically one day as the host. Like many entertainers, he paid his dues for many years in sleazy backwater clubs and in forgettable movies and television shows. If you want a good laugh, you can access these on “U-tube. In 1977 Jay began appearing periodically as a guest on the “Tonite” Show. Eventually, he worked his way up to guest host, then permanent guest host, then, finally, the “anointed one” (to replace Johnny Carson upon his retirement). In the ultimate non-wisdom of NBC executives he was passed over in favor of David Letterman, but, eventually, he became the permanent host on May 25, 1992, where, except for a brief ill-advised hiatus, he remained until February 6.
CONCLUSION AND PREDICTION
Jay is not at the end of his career, not by a long shot. He is still very popular. According to Nielson, the “Tonite” Show ratings are #1 in the late night-time slot among both total viewers and the coveted 18-49 age group. It has been averaging significantly more viewers than the “Late Show,” its primary competition. In leaving now, Jay is following the showbiz tradition of “leave ’em wanting more.” I predict that, being a workaholic, Jay will not simply retire to some beach or be content to fiddle with his cars. Expect to see Jay appearing at your local comedy club or, perhaps, in a TV special or two, and if Fallon should falter, who knows?
As for NBC, I believe they are taking a calculated risk in replacing him. There are both pros and cons to their decision, but my philosophy has always been “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Time will tell if their decision was a wise one.