Wednesday was a big day for Jimmy Fallon. He officially became the host of Tonight, joining the ranks of Johnny Carson. For his predecessor Jay Leno, though, Wednesday was "really awkward." Leno used that phrase in his monologue for Wednesday night's show which was being filmed when the official shuffling of hosts was announced, and he tried to make some lame joke about Letterman. The transcript is actually a little bit heart-wrenching. We'll quote at length so you can feel the peaks and troughs of Jay's forced jokes:
Folks, I got to be honest with you, I had a really awkward day today. I had to call David Letterman and tell him he didn’t get the Tonight Show again. Awful! Terrible!
I want to congratulate our good friend Jimmy Fallon! He is a hell of a guy! He’s going to do a great job. I just have one request for Jimmy: we've all fought, kicked, and scratched, to get this network up to 5th place, now we have to keep it there! Jimmy, don't let it slip into 6th! We are counting on you! We're counting on you Jimmy.
Everybody knew it was coming, but something about making it official must make it sting for
everybody's favorite some people's preferred host Jay Leno. For now, NBC seems pretty committed to keeping things cordial. The network's tried real hard to make the transition seem friendly and positive and even chummy. Jimmy Fallon even gave Jay Leno a gracious somehow beleaguered tip o' the hat during the filming of his show on Wednesday — "I have to say thanks to Jay Leno for being so gracious." And let's not forget that Jay Leno's not going to go hungry now that he's out of a job.
This is just the natural order of things. The Atlantic Wire's own Richard Lawson nailed it when he said very simply that "every era gets the Tonight Show host it deserves." Jay Leno's had the Tonight post since 1992. That's the year Bill Clinton got elected, the year Aladin came out in theaters, the year the Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series. It's not like that any more. Now we have the Internet and Spring Breakers and viral videos and, gosh, whatever the heck else kids like these days. According to NBC's executives, Fallon is a better match from this point on.
So yah, Jay Leno did have an awkward day hosting the Tonight Show. It's ok. Those days are numbered.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.