Jay Leno Announces Departure From ‘Tonight Show,’ Jimmy Fallon to Take Over in 2014

Jimmy Fallon, Jay Leno (Photo: NBC)

It’s a done deal — “The Tonight Show” is undergoing another major transition.

After weeks of speculation, Jay Leno announced Wednesday his departure from “The Tonight Show,” confirming he will be ending his 22-year run as host of the iconic late-night show in Spring 2014.

NBC also announced that Jimmy Fallon, who currently hosts NBC’s “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” will transition into the hosting duties for “The Tonight Show” after Leno exits next year.

Also as previously reported, “The Tonight Show” will move back to its original home at 30 Rock in New York City, where it will be executive produced by Lorne Michaels (“Saturday Night Live”).

Said Leno: “Congratulations Jimmy. I hope you’re as lucky as me and hold on to the job until you’re the old guy. If you need me, I’ll be at the garage.”

“I’m really excited to host a show that starts today instead of tomorrow,” Fallon said.

NBC explained its decision regarding the late-night shake-up in a statement:

“Jay Leno is an entertainment icon, making millions of people laugh every weeknight for more than 20 years,” said Steve Burke, Chief Executive Officer of NBCUniversal, in the press release. “His long reign as the highest-rated late-night host is a testament to his work ethic and dedication to his viewers and to NBC.

“We are purposefully making this change when Jay is No. 1, just as Jay replaced Johnny Carson when he was No. 1. Jimmy Fallon is a unique talent and this is his time. I’m thrilled he will become the sixth host of ‘The Tonight Show’ at exactly the right moment, in conjunction with our coverage of next year’s Winter Olympic Games from Sochi, Russia.”

Leno inherited the “Tonight” throne from Johnny Carson in 1992 and successfully hosted the show until May of 2009, when he was succeeded, briefly, by Conan O’Brien, until Leno reclaimed the hosting reins in March 2010.

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