Jay Leno is leaving "The Tonight Show" in spring 2014 after hosting the late-night talk series for 22 years and will then be replaced by Jimmy Fallon, NBC announced on Wednesday, April 3.
The news comes following weeks of reports that Fallon, an "SNL" alum and current host of "Late Night," which airs an hour later, would take over hosting duties and after Leno had made numerous jokes about the network in his monologues. He and Fallon addressed the rumors in a video spoofing the "West Side Story" song "Tonight."
"Congratulations Jimmy. 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," Leno, who collects rare and luxury cars, said in a statement provided by NBC.
"I'm really excited to host a show that starts today instead of tomorrow," Fallon said.
At age 38, Fallon, who is popular among young adults, will be one of the youngest hosts of "The Tonight Show," whose ratings have declined in recent years. Carson was 36 when he took over hosting duties in 1962 and Leno was 42 when he began his gig. Fallon was a fan favorite on "SNL" and served as a cast member and writer on the sketch comedy show between 1998 and 2006.
NBC said in its statement that as part of the transition, "The Tonight Show" would no longer be taped in Los Angeles and would return to its original filming location -- New York City, home of "Late Night," and that "SNL" showrunner Lorne Michaels would serve as the new executive producer.
The future of "Late Night," has not been determined. NBC said in its statement that "programming plans for the 12:35 a.m. (ET) time period currently are in development and will be announced soon."
This marks the second time the network has announced Leno's departure from the program. The comedian, who is now 62, had joined the "Tonight Show" in 1992 to become the host of the fourth version of the program, succeeding Johnny Carson. The casting sparked a feud between Leno and David Letterman, current host of rival CBS series "The Late Show." He had hosted "Late Night" and had expected to get the job.
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In 2009, Leno was replaced by Conan O'Brien, who had hosted "Late Night," but returned seven months later following a controversial programming shakeup made amid declining ratings. O'Brien, who is now 49, moved to Los Angeles when he was named as the "Tonight Show" host. After the shakeup, he remained there and was given his own talk show, "Conan," on the cable channel TBS.
Ratings for all network talk shows have declined over the years as more programming choices are made available via cable, satellite and the Internet. Last year, Leno took a 50 percent pay cut, reducing his salary from $30 million to $15 million, for his job as host of "The Tonight Show" following budget cuts.
O'Brien was not available for comment about Leno and Fallon. Jimmy Kimmel, whose ABC late-night talk show "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" was in January moved up half an hour earlier to compete with "The Tonight Show" and "The Late Show," said on : "Congratulations to my dear, sweet @jimmyfallon - a formidable rival and an incredible lover."