EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 4, 2013

Andover's Jay Leno leaves 'Tonight Show,' take 2

Staff reports
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Andover High junior Shea Cirbee was able to succinctly sum up the news about Andover native Jay Leno leaving “The Tonight Show” yesterday.

“I think it’s a bummer,” said the 17-year-old while sipping a latte at Starbucks in downtown Andover.

NBC confirmed yesterday that it was replacing Leno, again, at the head of “The Tonight Show” — this time in favor of Jimmy Fallon, the comic who follows Leno every night on television. The change will occur in spring 2014 during the network’s coverage of the Winter Olympics.

The announcement ended weeks of gossip about the change — remarkably similar to NBC’s 2009 plan to replace Leno with Conan O’Brien. That change lasted about eight months, resulting in Leno taking the show back over in 2010 when ratings fell.

Last night locals had mixed reactions to the news, many surprised by it.

Andover native John Jannetti said he was saddened, but thought Jimmy Fallon would be a good replacement.

”I do, but I really enjoyed Jay,” said the 56-year-old.

”I think it’s time. He’s had a good run,” said Mark Quinn, an Andover resident in his mid-60s.

Quinn had an opinion on what Leno should do after television.

”He can be on the Board of Trustees of Emerson College and do some part-time teaching,” he said (Leno received a bachelor’s degree in speech therapy from Emerson College in 1973).

Cirbee was, understandably, bummed by the news — though truth be told she is more of a “Conan” fan. Her friend, fellow Andover High junior Mimi Olney expressed disappointment at her friend’s admiration for O’Brien over Leno.

”Jay’s good,” asserted the 17-year-old, adding that she has some ideas what he can do with his free time.

”I think he should come back to Andover and so some charitable stand-up comedy. I hope to see him around town,” Olney said,.

In a statement, Leno congratulated the host of “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” and said, “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.”

Born in New York, Leno moved to Andover as a youngster in the 1950s. He grew up in Ballardvale, attended Andover schools through high school and flipped burgers at McDonald’s when he wasn’t making locals laugh.

Though he moved to Los Angeles early in his career, Leno never forgot his Andover roots. He’s made several donations to the town and its schools for improvements, and often pops in on old friends whenever he’s nearby.

During his first departure from “The Tonight Show,” NBC filmed a segment about him growing up in Andover as part of a week-long tribute to him.

Although Leno is still the most-watched late-night television host, NBC is making the move to Fallon because it thinks he will do better with younger viewers in the years to come.

“We are purposefully making this change when Jay is number 1, just as Jay replaced Johnny Carson when he was number 1,” NBC Universal Chief Executive Steve Burke said. “Jimmy Fallon is a unique talent and this is his time.”

That isn’t to say that Fallon is replacing Leno, however.

“Leno is an entertainment icon, making millions of people laugh every weeknight for more than 20 years,” Burke said. “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.”

A new host will not be the only big change at “The Tonight Show.” The show will also relocate to New York City when Fallon takes over.

NBC did not say who would succeed Fallon in his show.

Jay Leno timeline :1950: He's born in New York 1959: He arrives in Andover 1968: Graduates from Andover High 1973: Graduates from Emerson College 1975: Heads to Los Angeles, sleeps in doorways and cars until he starts getting work 1980: Marries Mavis Nicholson 1986: Starts monthly appearances on "Late Night with David Letterman" and guest hosts "Saturday Night Live" 1987: Starts guest hosting "The Tonight Show" 1992: Takes over "Tonight Show" as permanent host