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The Tonight Show
The Tonight Show with Jay Leno 2010-Intertitle.jpg
Leno's second Tonight Show title card
Format Talk show
Variety show
Created by Sylvester L. Weaver, Jr.
Presented by Steve Allen (1954–1957)
Jack Paar (1957–1962)
Johnny Carson (1962–1992)
Jay Leno (1992–2009)
Conan O'Brien (2009–2010)
Jay Leno (2010–present)
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes 2,000 (before Carson)
4,531 (under Carson)
3,789 (under Leno)
146 (under O'Brien)
Total: 10,466
Running time Varies
Original channel NBC
Picture format 480i SDTV (1954–1999)
1080i HDTV (1999–present)
Original run September 27, 1954 (1954-09-27) – present

The Tonight Show is an American late-night talk show that has aired on NBC since 1954. Tonight is the longest currently-running regularly scheduled entertainment program in the United States, and the third longest-running show on NBC, after Meet the Press and Today.

The Tonight Show has been hosted by Steve Allen (1954–1957), Jack Paar (1957–1962), Johnny Carson (1962–1992), Jay Leno (1992–2009, 2010–present), and Conan O'Brien (2009–2010).

The longest-serving host to date was Carson, who hosted The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson for 30 seasons, from the fall of 1962 through the spring of 1992. The current host of the show is Jay Leno, who had previously hosted the show from 1992–2009, and began his current tenure on March 1, 2010.[1]


Hosting history

NBC's Broadway Open House, which began in 1950, first demonstrated the potential for late-night network programming. The format for The Tonight Show can be traced to a nightly 40 minute local New York show hosted by Allen, which premiered in 1953 on what is now WNBC-TV. Beginning in September 1954, it was renamed Tonight! and shown on the full NBC network. Detailed history of hosts can be found here.[2]

Host From To Notes # of episodes
Date Age Date Age
Steve Allen September 27, 1954 32 January 25, 1957 35 Variety show Between all of the hosts from The Tonight Show's debut until the Carson era, 2,000 episodes were made
Ernie Kovacs October 1, 1956 37 January 22, 1957 37 Monday–Tuesday host
Jack Lescoulie January 28, 1957 44 June 21, 1957 44 Format switch to news program Tonight! America After Dark
Al "Jazzbo" Collins June 24, 1957 38 July 26, 1957 38 Replaced Lescoulie, who was moved to Today
Jack Paar July 29, 1957 39 March 30, 1962 43 Format switch to talk show; also called Tonight Starring Jack Paar and Jack Paar Tonight
Various hosts April 2, 1962 N/A September 28, 1962 N/A Interlude between Paar and Carson eras. Temporary hosts included Groucho Marx and Jerry Lewis.
Johnny Carson October 1, 1962 36 May 22, 1992 66 The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson 4,531
Jay Leno May 25, 1992 42 May 29, 2009 59 The Tonight Show with Jay Leno 3,789
Conan O'Brien June 1, 2009 46 January 22, 2010 46 The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien 146
Jay Leno March 1, 2010 59 present The Tonight Show with Jay Leno See above

Steve Allen (1954–1957)

The first Tonight announcer was Gene Rayburn. Allen's version of the show originated such talk show staples as an opening monologue, celebrity interviews, audience participation, and comedy bits in which cameras were taken outside the studio, as well as music, including guest performers and a house band under Lyle "Skitch" Henderson.

When the show became a success, Allen got a prime-time Sunday comedy-variety show in June 1956, leading him to share Tonight hosting duties with Ernie Kovacs during the 1956–1957 season. To give Allen time to work on his Sunday evening show, Kovacs hosted Tonight on Monday and Tuesday nights, with his own announcer and bandleader.

During the later Steve Allen years, regular audience member Lillian Miller became such an integral part that she was forced to join AFTRA, the television/radio performers union.

Allen and Kovacs departed Tonight in January 1957 after NBC ordered Allen to concentrate all his efforts on his Sunday night variety program, hoping to combat CBS's Ed Sullivan Show's dominance of the Sunday night ratings.[citation needed]

Tonight! America After Dark (1957)

Rather than continuing with the same format after Allen and Kovacs' departure from Tonight, NBC changed the show's format to a news and features show, similar to that of the network's popular morning program Today. The new show, renamed Tonight! America After Dark, was hosted first by Jack Lescoulie and then by Al "Jazzbo" Collins, with interviews conducted by Hy Gardner, and music provided by the Lou Stein Trio. This new version of the show was not popular, resulting in a significant number of NBC affiliates dropping the show.[3]

Jack Paar (1957–1962)

In July 1957, NBC returned the program to a talk/variety show format once again, with Jack Paar becoming the new solo host of the show. Under Paar, most of the NBC affiliates which had dropped the show during the ill-fated run of America After Dark began airing the show once again. Paar's era began the practice of branding the series after the host, and as such the program, though officially still called The Tonight Show, was marketed as The Jack Paar Show. A combo band conducted by Paar's Army buddy pianist Jose Melis filled commercial breaks and backed musical entertainers. [See music and announcers below.] Paar also introduced the idea of having guest hosts; one of these early hosts was Johnny Carson. In the late 1950s, it was one of the first regularly scheduled shows to be videotaped in color.

An English lady is visiting Switzerland. She asks about the location of the "W.C." The Swiss, thinking she is referring to the "Wayside Chapel", leaves her a note that said (in part) "the W.C. is situated nine miles from the room that you will occupy... It is capable of holding about 229 people and it is only open on Sunday and Thursday... It may interest you to know that my daughter was married in the W.C. and it was there that she met her husband... I shall be delighted to reserve the best seat for you, if you wish, where you will be seen by everyone."

—Censored joke dropped from the February 11, 1960 show.

On February 11, 1960, Jack Paar walked off his show for a month after NBC censors edited out a segment, taped the night before, about a joke involving a "W.C." (water closet, a polite term for a flush toilet) being confused for a "wayside chapel." As he left his desk, he said, "I am leaving The Tonight Show. There must be a better way of making a living than this." Paar's abrupt departure left his startled announcer, Hugh Downs, to finish the broadcast himself.[4]

Paar returned to the show on March 7, 1960, strolled on stage, struck a pose, and said, "As I was saying before I was interrupted..."[4] After the audience erupted in applause, Paar continued, "When I walked off, I said there must be a better way of making a living. Well, I've looked... and there isn't."

Transition to Carson (1962)

Jack Paar left the show in March 1962, citing the fact that he could no longer handle the load of putting on the show five nights a week. The Jack Paar Show moved to prime time (as The Jack Paar Program) and aired weekly, on Friday nights, through 1965.

As for Tonight, Johnny Carson was chosen as Paar's successor. At the time, Carson was host of the weekday afternoon quiz show Who Do You Trust? on ABC. Because Carson was under contract to ABC through September (they held him to his contract until the day it expired, prompting him to make occasional wisecracks on Who Do You Trust? about the situation- "I'd like to welcome you to ABC...the network with a heart"), he could not take over as host until October 1, 1962. The months between Paar and Carson were taken by a series of guest hosts, including Groucho Marx and Mort Sahl. The show was broadcast under the title The Tonight Show during this interregnum.

Johnny Carson (1962–1992)

Carson as Carnac the Magnificent, one of his most well known routines

Marx introduced Carson as the new host on October 1, 1962; Ed McMahon was Carson's announcer. The Tonight Show orchestra was for several years still led by Skitch Henderson. After a brief stint by Milton DeLugg, beginning in 1967 the "NBC Orchestra" was then headed by trumpeter Doc Severinsen who played in the Tonight Show Band in the years that 'Skitch' Henderson conducted. [See music and announcers below.] For all but a few months of its first decade on the air, Carson's Tonight Show was based in New York City. In May 1972 the show moved to Burbank, California into Studio One of NBC Studios West Coast (although it was announced as coming from nearby Hollywood), for the remainder of his tenure. Carson is often referred to as "The King of Late-Night" because of the great influence he has had on so many well-known talk show hosts and comedians.

Jay Leno (1992–2009, 2010–present)

First Lady Laura Bush and Jay Leno

Johnny Carson retired on May 22, 1992, and was replaced by Jay Leno amid controversy. David Letterman not only wanted to move into that earlier time slot from his late night spot after The Tonight Show, but was considered by Carson and others as the natural successor[5] (despite Leno having been Carson's permanent guest host for several years).[6] Letterman, having had his heart set on the earlier time slot, left NBC and joined CBS. Late Show with David Letterman, airing in the same slot, has been competing head to head against The Tonight Show ever since.[7] After Leno's run as host of The Tonight Show, Conan O'Brien took over as host. On March 1, 2010 Jay Leno returned to The Tonight Show, with Wally Wingert as his announcer.

Will Ferrell and Conan O'Brien

Conan O'Brien (2009–2010)

On September 27, 2004, the 50th anniversary of the show's premiere, NBC announced that Jay Leno would be succeeded by Conan O'Brien in 2009. Leno explained that in yielding to Conan, he wanted to avoid repeating the hard feelings that developed between him and David Letterman, and called O'Brien "certainly the most deserving person for the job." The final episode of The Tonight Show with Leno as host aired on Friday, May 29, 2009. O'Brien replaced Leno as host on The Tonight Show on Monday, June 1 from a new studio in Stage 1 of the Universal Studios Hollywood back lot, ending an era (since 1972) of taping the show in Burbank. Leno, meanwhile, went on to host The Jay Leno Show, a prime time talk show.

Timeslot conflict and Leno's return

Main article: 2010 Tonight Show conflict
O'Brien quickly gained online support during the controversy.[8]

In their new roles, neither O'Brien nor Leno succeeded in delivering the viewing audiences the network anticipated. On January 7, 2010, multiple media outlets reported that beginning March 1, 2010, Jay Leno would move from his 10pm weeknight time slot to 11:35pm, due to a combination of pressure from local affiliates whose newscasts were suffering, and both Leno's and O'Brien's poor ratings.[9][10] Leno's show would be shortened from an hour to 30 minutes. All NBC late night programming would be preempted by the 2010 Winter Olympics between February 15 and February 26. This would move The Tonight Show to 12:05am, a post-midnight timeslot for the first time in its history.[11]

On January 10, NBC confirmed they would be moving Jay Leno out of primetime as of February 12 and intended to move him to late-night as soon as possible.[12][13] TMZ reported that O'Brien was given no advance notice of this change, and that NBC offered him two choices: an hour-long 12:05am time slot, or the option to leave the network.[14] On January 12, O'Brien issued a press release that stated he would not continue with Tonight if it moved to a 12:05am time slot,[15] saying, "I believe that delaying The Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn’t The Tonight Show." On January 21, it was announced that NBC had struck a deal with O'Brien. It was decided that O'Brien would leave The Tonight Show. The deal was made that O'Brien would receive a $33 million payout and that his staff of almost 200 would receive $12 million in the departure. O'Brien's final episode aired on Friday, January 22, and Jay Leno resumed hosting The Tonight Show on March 1, 2010.[16][17][18]

Music and announcers

Music during the show's introduction and commercial segues is supplied by The Tonight Show Band. Skitch Henderson was the band leader during the Steve Allen and early Carson years, followed briefly by Milton DeLugg (who later went on to become the musical director of The Gong Show). Gene Rayburn served as Allen's announcer and sidekick and also guest-hosted some episodes. The Lou Stein Trio provided musical accompaniment during the short run of Tonight! America After Dark, which ran for six months between the Steve Allen and Jack Paar eras of The Tonight Show. José Melis led the band for Jack Paar, and Hugh Downs was his announcer. For most of Johnny Carson's run on the show, the Tonight Show's band, then called "The NBC Orchestra" was led by Doc Severinsen, former trumpet soloist in Henderson's band for Steve Allen.

When McMahon was away from the show, Severinsen was the substitute announcer and Tommy Newsom would lead the band. On the rare occasions that both McMahon and Severinsen were away, Newsom would take the announcer's chair and the band would be led by assistant musical director Shelly Cohen.

Severinsen's band featured several accomplished sidemen in addition to saxophonist Newsom, including trumpeter Snooky Young, pianist Ross Tompkins, drummer Ed Shaughnessy, trumpeter Bobby Shew, trumpeter Conte Candoli, saxophonist Pete Christlieb, and jazz trumpet legend Clark Terry. The band frequently appeared on camera in the "Stump the Band" segments, where an audience member would dare the band to play some obscure song title, and the band would comically improvise something appropriate. The routine was played for full comedy value and the band was not really expected to know the songs, but on two occasions the band did answer correctly, much to the maestro's surprise. Severinsen was heard to ask incredulously, "You mean we actually...?"

The first bandleader during Leno's tenure was Branford Marsalis; he was replaced by Kevin Eubanks in 1995, though the Marsalis-written theme was used throughout the show's run. On March 29, 2004, Leno's long-time announcer Edd Hall was replaced by John Melendez from The Howard Stern Show.

Conan O'Brien announced on the February 18, 2009 episode of Late Night that The Max Weinberg 7 (rechristened as the Tonight Show Band, and adding a second percussionist), the house band on that program, would be accompanying him to The Tonight Show as his version's house band. It was announced February 23, 2009 that former Late Night sidekick Andy Richter would be O'Brien's announcer. Richter replaced O'Brien's former long-time announcer Joel Godard (who stayed behind in New York) when his rendition of The Tonight Show began.

For the second incarnation of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, a new bandleader will be selected, though original bandleader Kevin Eubanks will stay for a few weeks in the transition.

Broadcasting milestones

The Tonight Show began its broadcast at 11:15 pm ET, following an affiliate's 15-minute news broadcast. As more affiliates lengthened their local news programs to 30 minutes, the show began doing two openings, one for the affiliates that began at 11:15 and another for those who joined at 11:30. By early 1965, only 43 of the 190 affiliated stations carried the entire show.[19] Johnny Carson, who was not happy that Ed McMahon was "hosting" the 11:15 segment when he refused to appear until 11:30 after February 1965, finally insisted that the show's start time be changed to 11:30, eliminating the two-opening practice in December 1966.[20]

When the show began it was broadcast live. On January 12, 1959, the show began to be videotaped for broadcast later on the same day, although initially the Thursday night programs were kept live.[21][22] Color broadcasts began on September 19, 1960.[23]

The Tonight Show became the first American television show to broadcast with MTS stereo sound in 1984, although sporadically. Regular use of MTS began in 1985. In September 1991, the show postponed its starting time by five minutes to 11:35, to give network affiliates the opportunity to sell more advertising on their local news. On April 26, 1999, the show started broadcasting in 1080i HDTV, becoming the first American nightly talk show to be shot in that format.

On March 19, 2009, The Tonight Show became the first late night talk show in history to have the sitting President of the United States as a guest, when President Barack Obama visited.


Throughout the years, the time at which The Tonight Show aired and the length has changed multiple times.[2]

Begin Date End Date Nights Start End Notes
September 27, 1954 October 5, 1956 Mon-Fri 11:30 1:00 Allen
October 8, 1956 January 4, 1957 Mon-Fri 11:30 12:30 Allen
January 7, 1957 December 30, 1966 Mon-Fri 11:15 1:00 Allen, Paar, Carson
January 2, 1965 January 1, 1967 Sat or Sun 11:15 1:00 Repeats, known as The Saturday/Sunday Tonight Show
January 2, 1967 September 5, 1980 Mon-Fri 11:30 1:00 Carson
January 7, 1967 September 28, 1975 Sat or Sun 11:30 1:00 Repeats; eventually known as The Weekend Tonight Show
September 8, 1980 August 30, 1991 Mon-Fri 11:30 12:30 Carson
September 2, 1991 present[24] Mon-Fri 11:35 12:35 Carson, Leno, O'Brien, Leno

Gag, skit, and segments


  • "Man on the Street interviews" Frequently featured actors as recurring characters, most notably Don Knotts, Louis Nye and Tom Poston, though Allen also performed impromptu bits with non-professional civilians.
  • "Crazy Shots" Later known as *"Wild Pictures." Allen's supporting cast and guest stars would participate in quick visual gags while Allen played piano accompaniment.


  • "Stump the Band" Audience members are asked to name an obscure song and the band tries to play it. If the band doesn't know the song, it usually breaks into a comical piece of music. This segment went on to become part of Carson's Tonight Show.


  • "Carnac the Magnificent" Carson plays a psychic who is given sealed envelopes (that McMahon invariably states, with a flourish, have been kept "hermetically sealed inside a mayonnaise jar underneath Funk & Wagnalls' porch since noon today"). Carnac holds an envelope to his head and recites the punchline to a joke contained within the envelope, then rips open the envelope and reads the matching question inside. Sample: "Saucepan... Who was Peter Pan's wino brother?" If a joke falls flat with the audience, Carnac invariably passes a comedic curse upon them (e.g., "May a bloated yak change the temperature of your jacuzzi!").
  • "The Tea Time Movie", with "Art Fern" and the Matinée Lady (originally Paula Prentiss, then a parade of one shots including Edy Williams, Juliet Prowse and Lee Meredith, then for many years Carol Wayne, then Danuta Wesley, and finally Teresa Ganzel). Carson once said that Art Fern was his favorite character: "He's so sleazy!" Huckster Art usually wore a loud suit, lavish toupee, and pencil mustache, and spoke in the high, nasal approximation of Jackie Gleason's "Reginald van Gleason III" character. A parody of 1950s-style, fast-talking advertising pitchmen, the Tea Time Movie consists of a rapid-fire series of fake advertisements for products and companies supposedly sponsoring a mid-afternoon movie. Invariably the jokes refer to his buxom Matinée Lady assistant, and at least once in every skit a variation of the "Slauson Cutoff" joke is made (e.g., "You can find our store by heading down Hwy. 101 until you get to the Slauson Cutoff. Get out of the car, cut off your slauson, get back in the car."), as is a reference to "Drive until you get to... (a map is unfolded to reveal a table fork) the fork in the road!" Art would then return us to today's movie (like "Tarzan and Cheetah Have to Get Married" or "Rin Tin Tin Gets Fixed Fixed Fixed," etc.), followed by an antique, four-second film clip. Back to Art, caught necking with the Matinée Lady before announcing another movie and another commercial.


  • "Headlines" (Monday): Humorous print items sent in by viewers. These real-life headlines are usually headlines with typographical errors, or unintentionally inappropriate items. The segment usually starts out with a fake, humorous Headline during the introduction for the segment, such as Arabs Wish Bush "A Happy Shoe Year!", usually reflecting some current event. Reflecting Jay's moving of this segment to a 10 PM ET/PT time slot, the lead Headline on the final broadcasting of this segment was 4 Out Of 5 Scientists Say "Headlines" Funnier at 10PM Than 11:30PM.
  • Jaywalking: A pre-taped segment, "Jaywalking" is a play on the host's name and the illegal practice of jaywalking. Leno asks people questions about current news and other topics in public areas around Los Angeles (usually Hollywood Boulevard, Melrose Avenue or Universal Studios). Most responses are outrageously incorrect; for example, one person believed that Abraham Lincoln was the first president, and another could not identify a picture of Hillary Clinton. Sometimes the questions are of the "What color is the White House?" level, such as asking in what country the Panama Canal is located in. Up to 15 people are interviewed in an hour or less for each segment, with about nine interviews used on the air.[13]


Timeslots and International broadcasts

Country TV Network(s) Weekly Schedule (local time)
Australia Australia The Comedy Channel Weeknights 12.00am AEST
Canada Canada A & Access Simulcast with NBC's broadcast
Denmark Denmark Canal 9 (as The Tonight Show) Weeknights 11.30 pm CET
Dominican Republic Dominican Republic Cable de Tricom (as Tonight Show) Simulcast with NBC's ET broadcast
Turkey Turkey e2 (as The Tonight Show) Weeknights 11 pm IST
Europe Europe CNBC Europe Weeknights 12 am CET, Weekends 9 pm CET
India India Zee Cafe Weeknights 11 pm IST
Israel Israel yes stars Comedy (as Conan O'Brien) Weeknights 8:00 pm
Pakistan Pakistan CNBC Pakistan (as Tonight Show)
Philippines The Philippines Jack TV (as The Tonight Show) Tuesday to Saturday 3 pm (via satellite) / Tuesday to Saturday 11 pm (late telecast)
Portugal Portugal SIC Radical (as The Tonight Show) Weeknights 9:30 pm
Romania Romania Antena 3 (as Tonight Show) Weeknights 12:25 am
Sweden Sweden Kanal 9 Weeknights around 11 pm, Daytime
Finland Finland Sub (as Tonight Show) Weeknights 11:55 pm, Repeated on weekday evenings
South Africa South Africa CNBC Africa (as Tonight Show)
United Kingdom United Kingdom CNBC (as The Tonight Show) Weeknights 11 pm

The Tonight Show is also seen around the world. It is broadcast on CNBC Europe, usually three nights after it has been shown in the U.S. The show is screened at 10.30 pm AEDST weeknights on The Comedy Channel in Australia, where new episodes are shown hours after its American broadcast. In Sweden, Kanal 5 has shown The Tonight Show (as Jay Leno Show) since the late '90s with one week's delay. Since October, 2006, it is also being aired in India on Zee Cafe 12 hours after the show is shown in the USA.[26]

An early attempt at airing the show in the United Kingdom during the 1980s was unsuccessful, sparking jokes by Carson. On the October 23, 1984 broadcast, guest Paul McCartney had this to say of the show's British run:

Carson: (throwing to commercial) ...we have to pay some bills here. It's not like British television which just goes and goes till they end it.
McCartney: Oh you're just mad because they didn't like your show.[citation needed]

Shows such as Des O'Connor Tonight and Wogan were considered by many to be the UK equivalent of the show.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ Leno to Return as Host on March 1The New York Times. Retrieved January 21, 2010.
  2. ^ a b "THE TONIGHT SHOW - The Museum of Broadcast Communications". The Museum of Broadcast Communications. Retrieved January 22, 2010. 
  3. ^ "Show Business: Late-Night Affair". Time Magazine. August 18, 1958.,9171,810518-1,00.html. Retrieved 2009-10-15. 
  4. ^ a b Susman, Gary (January 27, 2004). "Tonight Show icon Jack Paar dies". Entertainment Weekly.,,583933,00.html. Retrieved 2009-10-15. 
  5. ^ "Carson Feeds Letterman Lines". New York Post. January 20, 2005. Retrieved 2006-12-17. 
  6. ^ Carter, Bill (June 7, 1991). "NBC Appoints Jay Leno To Replace Johnny Carson". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-10-15. 
  7. ^ Carter, Bill (January 15, 1993). "Going Head to Head Late at Night: Letterman on CBS, Leno on NBC". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-10-15. 
  8. ^ "I'm With Coco": Inside the Conan O'Brien support movement, a 13 January 2010 PopWatch article from Entertainment Weekly
  9. ^ LA Times article: "Future For NBC's Tonight Show Up In The Air".
  10. ^ Access Hollywood article: "Jay Leno Heading Back To Late Night, Conan O’Brien Weighing Options".
  11. ^ NBC ON THE HOT SEAT: Will It Be Jay AND Conan In Late Night? What's The Reason For Leno's Anti-NBC Monologue Tonight?. Retrieved 2010-01-09.
  12. ^ "NBC confirms move of "Leno Show""
  13. ^ New York Times article: "Update: NBC Plans Leno at 11:30, Conan at 12".
  14. ^ TMZ article: "NBC to Conan O'Brien -- The Choice Is Yours".
  15. ^ Conan Won't Do "The Tonight Show" Following Leno,, January 12, 2010
  16. ^
  17. ^ NBC Universal Confirms Conan O’Brien Exit Deal Signed from Bloomberg via Business Week
  18. ^ Conan O'Brien, NBC reach deal from CBC News
  19. ^ Leamer, Laurence (2005). King of the Night: The Life of Johnny Carson. HarperCollins. p. 183. ISBN 978-0060840990. 
  20. ^ Encyclopedia of Television (2nd ed.). Museum of Broadcast Communications. 2004. p. 2356. ISBN 978-1579584115. 
  21. ^ "Paar Set On Tape". The Washington Post: G3. January 11, 1959. 
  22. ^ "Visitors to the TV Studios". New York Times: X14. February 22, 1959. 
  23. ^ "Hollywood Tie-Line". The Washington Post: H5. September 18, 1960. 
  24. ^
  25. ^ "Candid Camera Timeline". Retrieved 2009-10-15. 
  26. ^ Media News (October 6, 2006). "Zee Café brings you the current season of 'The Tonight Show with Jay Leno'". Zee Cafe. Retrieved 2009-10-15. 

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

  • 106 [degrees] in the valley… I was sweating like Dan Rather checking for forged documents.
         o Monologue, September 10, 2004

Simple English

The Tonight Show is a popular late night television talk and comedy show in the United States. It appears on the NBC television network. The show started in 1954 and was hosted by Steve Allen. In 1957, Jack Paar became the host, with Ernie Kovacs hosting on some nights.

In 1962, Johnny Carson took over and stayed until 1992, with announcer Ed McMahon as co-host. Carson and McMahon retired from The Tonight Show in 1992, when Jay Leno became host. Leno left the show in 2009, and Conan O'Brien (of Late Night and Saturday Night Live fame) became host from June 2009 to January 2010 before leaving due to controversy with The Tonight Show's timeslot. Jay Leno became the host of the show again on March 1, 2010.

2009 timeslot controversy

In late 2009, NBC said that they would be moving the Jay Leno Show to 11:35 PM, the time usually slotted for The Tonight Show. The Jay Leno Show would be 30 minutes long. The Tonight Show would be moved to 12:05 AM, but would still be a full hour long. NBC did this because Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien were not getting enough viewers, and they believed that moving The Jay Leno Show to late night would increase their prime time viewers.

After being told this, Conan O'Brien said that he would be leaving The Tonight Show. He said that he believed that moving the show to 12:05 would ruin it, and that it would be unfair to Late Night, which would have been moved to 1:05 AM. The deal was made that O'Brien would receive $33 million and that his staff of almost 200 people would receive $12 million. Conan O'Brien's last show aired on January 22, 2010.

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