The Tonight Show with Jay Leno is an American late-night talk show hosted by Jay Leno that initially aired from May 25, 1992 to May 29, 2009, and resumed production on March 1, 2010. The fourth incarnation of the Tonight Show franchise made its debut on May 25, 1992, three days following Johnny Carson‘s retirement as host of the program. The program originates from NBC Studios in Burbank, California, and is broadcast Monday through Friday at 11:35 PM in the Eastern and Pacific time zones (10:35 PM Central/Mountain time). Unlike Carson or his predecessor Jack Paar, Leno only once utilized a guest host, preferring to host the series by himself.
The series, which followed the same basic format as that of his predecessors (an opening monologue followed by comedy routines, interviews and performances), ran until May 29, 2009, after which Leno was succeeded by Conan O’Brien. NBC signed Leno to a new deal for a nightly talk show in the 10:00 pm ET timeslot. The primetime series, titled The Jay Leno Show, debuted on September 14, 2009,following a similar format to the Leno incarnation of Tonight.
Neither O’Brien’s version of the program, which premiered June 1, 2009, nor The Jay Leno Show generated the ratings that NBC had expected. The network decided to move a condensed 30-minute version of Leno’s show to O’Brien’s time slot, and O’Brien’s Tonight Showa half-hour later. This decision met with opposition from O’Brien, whose stint on The Tonight Show ended January 22, 2010, after which he began his own talk show on TBS. The Tonight Show with Jay Leno then began its second and current incarnation, the sixth of the franchise, on March 1, 2010.
Johnny Carson retired from The Tonight Show on May 22, 1992, and was replaced by Jay Leno.David Letterman not only wanted to move into that earlier time slot from his late night spot afterThe Tonight Show, but was also considered by many as the natural successor (despite Leno having been Carson’s permanent guest host for several years). Carson himself had always favored Letterman; notably Carson, who had previously been interviewed by Letterman, made two appearances on Letterman’s rival CBS show, made no mention of Leno during his final shows and regularly sent Letterman monologue jokes in his final years. Having had his heart set on the earlier time slot, Letterman left NBC and joined CBS. Late Show with David Letterman, airing in the same slot, has been competing head to head againstThe Tonight Show ever since. Conan O’Brien slid into the late night time slot vacated by Letterman.