Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Leno began hosting the show on May 25, 1992. He took over following the retirement of legendary host Johnny Carson, who had been the face of the show since 1962. At the time, Late Night host David Letterman was hoping to move into Carson’s slot instead of Leno; the HBO movie The Late Shift depicts the events that put Leno behind the desk. Letterman then famously cut ties with NBC, moving to CBS for The Late Show, where he’s still going strong.
Leno’s tenure as host was put on hold briefly when he was replaced by Conan O’Brien in 2009. That change lasted less than a year, and Leno came back to The Tonight Show early in 2010. O’Brien, who hosted Late Night from 1993 until taking over The Tonight Show, took a short break from hosting to go on a very well-received comedy tour before returning to TV to host Conan on TBS late in 2010.
Leno’s first guest when he took over The Tonight Show in 1992 was actor and comedian Billy Crystal. In a nod to the show’s roots, Crystal will also be Leno’s final guest on February 6. That final show will also feature a musical performance from country legend Garth Brooks.
Leno’s successor this time around is, once again, the current host of Late Night: Jimmy Fallon. Fallon’s star began to rise as a cast member of Saturday Night Live from 1999-2004, where he served as co-anchor (with Tina Fey) of the Weekend Update segment, along with bringing a number of characters to life. After leaving the show, he appeared in a number of movies, most notably Fever Pitch with Drew Barrymore, before taking over Late Night.
Fallon’s first show as host of The Tonight Show will be on Monday, February 17. It will air at midnight for the first week due to NBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, reverting afterwards to its customary 11:35 time slot. His first show will feature Will Smith and U2 as guests. Following Fallon as host of Late Night will be fellow SNL alum Seth Meyers, who will begin on February 24, after the Olympics are over.
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