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Jay Leno is the late-night talk show host of The Tonight Show. Fallon announced plans to exit the long-running series in April 2013.
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However, NBC picked the more clean-cut Leno, who most considered to be a safer, more middle-America-friendly choice.
Initially, the transfer of hosting duties to Leno did not go smoothly. There was a well-documented falling out between Leno and his long-time manager, Helen Kushnick, who had assumed executive-producing duties for the show. In what had become a cut-throat environment in the late-night talk show world,
Kushnick reportedly threatened potential guests not to appear on other talk shows if they wanted to be on The Tonight Show.
Kushnick was eventually fired, and the show gained momentum and a growing audience. The show now leads the late-night ratings. In 1993, Leno's contract was extended by five years, at $40 million, and two years later, Leno won an Emmy Award for his performance as The Tonight Show's host. In 1998, he was renewed again for another five years, this time at $100 million.
In 2003, Leno announced that he planned to leave NBC by 2010. Late night talk show host Conan O'Brien (Late Night with Conan O'Brien) was soon named Leno's heir apparent on The Tonight Show. But in December 2008, shortly before Leno's contract was set to expire, the network made a surprise announcement: In 2009, Leno would move to a new primetime slot. The new program, The Jay Leno Show, debuted in September 2009.
Unfortunately, Leno's new show, which aired at 10 p.m., failed to attract much of an audience. The ratings for The Tonight Show also declined after Conan took over as host. NBC planned to move Leno's failing show back to late night, pushing Conan's Tonight Show back until after midnight. But Conan wanted no part of that scheduling change. The network eventually decided to put Leno back behind the desk at The Tonight Show. Leno returned to late night in March 2010. Conan went on to launch a competing show for TBS.
In August 2012, Leno made headlines for taking a pay cut. He reportedly decided to reduce his salary to try to save the jobs of some of his Tonight Show staffers. NBC had eliminated 20 jobs as part of a cost-cutting effort. Around the same time, rival network ABC announced that it would move Jimmy Kimmel Live! to an earlier time slot to compete against The Tonight Show.
Leno announced plans to exit The Tonight Show in April 2013. Jimmy Fallon will be the show's new host, beginning after Leno's contract ends in 2014. In a statement released by NBC, Leno wished his successor well. "Congratulations, Jimmy. I hope you're as lucky as me and hold on to the job until you're the old guy." Leno has yet to make any comments about his career after his run ends.
Leno has been married to wife Mavis Nicholson since 1980. They live in Los Angeles, where he spends his spare time working on his collection of classic cars and motorcycles.
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