Jay Leno got all Andy Kaufman at a press conference yesterday, showing up in a bald cap and a pasted-on goatee as a fake reporter. He asked when the host will say his final monologue on the Tonight Show and be replaced by Conan O’Brien. Co-chairman Marc Graboff then announced that Mr. Leno’s last night would be on May 29, 2009. Mr. O’Brien will take over starting June 1.
But what will Mr. Leno do afer the Tonight Show? The New York Times as more:
He said Mr. Leno had come to the NBC executives after an article appeared in USA Today in which he seemed to be saying angrily that he would be gone from NBC when his contract expired. “I think Jay felt a little bad about it,” Mr. Graboff said. “He wanted to make sure it was clear that this was a cooperative thing. Jay was part of this from the get-go.”
“He did not want to happen to Conan what happened to him in 1992,” Mr. Graboff said, referring to a backlash Mr. Leno experienced when he took over “Tonight” and some in the news media and the public felt he had usurped that position from David Letterman.
“It has been cooperative and collegial, and his coming here today was a very clear message from him that he’s not bitter and that he wants to go out on top,” Mr. Graboff said.
NBC will try to assure that, Mr. Graboff said, by making Mr. Leno’s last show on “Tonight” an event — as long as Mr. Leno wants it that way. “We’ll do whatever we can and whatever Jay wants to give him the proper send-off,” he said.
In the meantime NBC is refusing to concede that Mr. Leno’s departure to another network — as in ABC, in Mr. Kimmel’s nightmare scenario — is a fait accompli. Mr. Graboff said NBC was continuing to work on ideas with Mr. Leno across all divisions of the company. “We believe in this day and age there’s room for him to be on our air,” he said, though he added that it would not be in a show at 11:30 p.m.