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.