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Korobov: An ode to Leno

BY MICHAEL KOROBOV | OCTOBER 22, 2014 5:00 AM

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Is it just me, or do weekday nights just not feel the same without Jay Leno? Ever since Jimmy Fallon replaced Jay Leno on “The Tonight Show,” I’ve been less and less inclined to use this medium as my prime procrastination tool.

When Leno left NBC in February, there were talks that he would make the jump to Fox. Greta Van Susteren strongly advocated for a contract, yet nothing happened.

Not quite a year later, Leno is once again in the news. He picked up the 17th Mark Twain Prize for American Humor on Sunday at the Kennedy Center and closed a deal with CNBC. He will host a new show that will focus on his passion for various automobiles. The move perhaps helps paint CNBC as a network that covers issues beyond financial news.

Most importantly, though, it means Leno is back.

Not everyone is a Leno fan. The 64-year old standup artist has sparked animosity ever since he was picked over David Letterman to host “The Tonight Show” in 1992. He replaced Johnny Carson, who had become synonymous with late-night comedy. Beating Letterman for the spot ended their friendship and initiated a feud that has continued to this day.

In 2009, Leno had another run-in with a late-night host — Conan O’Brien. He had agreed to let Conan take over his show after five years, yet when the time, came he stayed at NBC in a new show and time slot, “The Jay Leno Show.” When both “The Tonight Show” with Conan and “The Jay Leno Show” bombed in the ratings, Leno was given his old show back. Many, including Jimmy Kimmel, viewed this as Leno stealing a show from someone he had promised it to.

However, whether certain actions of his are debatable, they are no reason to hate the man. Leno didn’t break any laws. Instead, he has produced a remarkable track record in the world of late-night comedy: bringing laughter and lightheartedness to millions of Americans.

Leno’s show led the ratings almost consistently for 21 years. In 2006, he had been No. 1 for 11-consecutive seasons, constantly beating his competition. In 1995, his shows won an Emmy for Outstanding Variety, Music, or Comedy Series.

Ratings aside, Leno is also an excellent role model. In 2009, he wrote, “When I was a kid, I had two jobs. I worked at a Ford dealership and at a McDonald’s. I’d spend the money from one job and save the money form the other.” Even while he had his show, he claims that he has never spent a dime of his TV money. Instead, he saves it and lives on the money he makes from standup.

If Leno does come back to television it won’t be for the money; it’ll be to continue to bring the same high quality entertainment he has been providing his whole life.


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