The Tonight Show

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The Tonight Show
Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon Intertitle.png
Format Talk show
Variety show
Created by Sylvester L. Weaver, Jr.
Presented by Steve Allen (1954–57)
Jack Paar (1957–62)
Johnny Carson (1962–92)
Jay Leno (1992–2009, 2010–14)
Conan O'Brien (2009–10)
Jimmy Fallon (2014–present)
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes 2,000 (before Carson)
4,531 (under Carson)
4,610 (under Leno)
146 (under O'Brien)
40(under Fallon)
Total: 11,322
Production
Location(s) New York City 1954–57, 1957–72, 2014–present
Chicago (Tonight! America After Dark) 1957
Los Angeles (Tonight! America After Dark) 1957, 1972–2014
Running time Varies (About 1 hour)
Production company(s) NBC Productions (1954–96)
Tonight Show Company, LLC. (1962–80)
Carson Productions (1980–92)
Big Dog Productions (1992–2009, 2010–14)
NBC Studios (1996–2004)
NBC Universal Television Studio (2004–2007)
Universal Media Studios (2007–11)
Universal Television (2011–present)
Conaco (2009–10)
Broadway Video (2014–present)
Broadcast
Original channel NBC
Picture format 480i (4:3 SDTV) (1954–1999)
1080i (16:9 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. Currently recorded in New York City, it 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. It is the longest-running talk show in television history, surpassing Ireland's The Late Late Show by eight years. The show has undergone some minor title changes, having aired as Tonight for several of its early years, before settling on The Tonight Show in 1962. Aside from minor format changes, and a brief move to a more news-style format in 1957 before reverting back that same year, it has remained a talk show through-out its run.

The Tonight Show was hosted by Steve Allen (1954–57), Jack Paar (1957–62), Johnny Carson (1962–92), Jay Leno (1992–2009, 2010–14), Conan O'Brien (2009–10), and Jimmy Fallon (2014–present). Several guest hosts also appeared, particularly during the Paar and Carson eras. The current host is former Late Night host and Saturday Night Live cast member Jimmy Fallon.

The longest-serving host was Johnny Carson, who hosted The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson for 30 seasons from October 1962 through to May 1992. The most recent host of the show is Jimmy Fallon, who has hosted the show since February 17, 2014.

Hosting history[edit]

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, originally titled The Knickerbocker Beer Show (after the sponsor) but quickly retitled The Steve Allen Show, which premiered in 1953 on WNBT. Beginning in September 1954, it was renamed Tonight! and shown on the full NBC network.

Host From To Notes # of episodes
Date Age Date Age
Steve Allen September 27, 1954 32 January 25, 1957 35 Tonight Starring Steve Allen 2,000[tablenote 1]
Ernie Kovacs October 1, 1956 37 January 22, 1957 37 Monday–Tuesday host
Jack Lescoulie January 28, 1957 44 June 21, 1957 44 Today veteran hosted format switch to news program Tonight! America After Dark
Al "Jazzbo" Collins June 24, 1957 38 July 26, 1957 38 Replaced Lescoulie, who remained on 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 September 28, 1962 Interlude between Paar and Carson eras. Guest hosts included Groucho Marx, Merv Griffin, Bill Cullen, Jerry Lewis, and Mort Sahl.
Johnny Carson October 1, 1962 36 May 22, 1992 66 The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson 4,531[tablenote 2]
Jay Leno May 25, 1992 42 May 29, 2009 59 The Tonight Show with Jay Leno 3,775[tablenote 3]
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 February 6, 2014 63 The Tonight Show with Jay Leno 835[tablenote 4]
Jimmy Fallon February 17, 2014[1] 39 Present 39 The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon 40

Notes for hosting history

  1. ^ Includes episodes hosted by all hosts prior to Johnny Carson.
  2. ^ Not including guest hosted or Weekend Tonight Show/Best of Carson episodes
  3. ^ First tenure, 4,610 episodes total
  4. ^ Second tenure, 4,610 episodes total

Steve Allen (1954–57)[edit]

The first Tonight announcer was Gene Rayburn. Allen's version of the show originated talk show staples such 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 1956–57 season. To give Allen time to work on his Sunday evening show, Kovacs hosted Tonight on Monday and Tuesday nights with his own announcer (Bill Wendell) and bandleader.

During the later Steve Allen years, regular audience member Lillian Miller became such an integral part that she was forced to join American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, 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 The Ed Sullivan Show's dominance of the Sunday night ratings.[citation needed]

Unlike the first installment of Johnny Carson's tenure, which is lost except for audio recordings, a kinescope recording of the opening monologue from the very first Tonight Show under Allen survives. In this recording, Allen states "this show is going to go on forever"; although in context (and as part of a series of jokes) Allen refers to the fact the program is scheduled to run late into the night, his statement has come to refer to the longevity of the franchise.

Tonight! America After Dark (1957)[edit]

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 (later replaced by the Mort Lindsey Quartet, then the Johnny Guarnieri Quartet). This new version of the show was unpopular, resulting in a significant number of NBC affiliates dropping the show.[2]

Jack Paar (1957–62)[edit]

Jack Paar and presidential candidate John F. Kennedy in 1960

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. 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 'WC'. The Swiss, thinking she is referring to the 'Wayside Chapel', leaves her a note that said (in part) 'the WC 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 WC 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 February 11, 1960 show

On February 11, 1960, Jack Paar walked off his show – an absence which lasted almost a month – after NBC censors edited out a segment taped the night before about a joke involving a "WC" (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 to finish the broadcast himself.[3]

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 ..."[3] 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 from Paar to Carson (1962)[edit]

Citing that he would prefer to do one prime-time show per week rather than five late-night installments, Paar left the show in March 1962. The guests on the last show were Jack E. Leonard, Alexander King, Robert Merrill and Buddy Hackett. Among those appearing in taped farewell messages were Richard Nixon, Robert Kennedy, Billy Graham, Bob Hope and Jack Benny. Hugh Downs was the announcer, and Jose Melis led the band.The Jack Paar Show moved to prime time (as The Jack Paar Program) and aired weekly on Friday nights through 1965. The final show, on Friday March 30, 1962 was a "Best Of Paar" rerun.

Johnny Carson was chosen as Paar's successor. Carson was host at the time of the weekday afternoon quiz show Who Do You Trust? on ABC. Because Carson was under contract through September to ABC and producer Don Fedderson (who held him to his contract until the day it expired) he could not take over as host until October 1, 1962. The months between Paar and Carson were filled by a series of guest hosts including Groucho Marx, Merv Griffin, Bill Cullen, Jerry Lewis, and Mort Sahl, some of whom later noted they were being led to believe they were auditioning for the job. Griffin was so well received as a guest host that NBC gave him his own daytime talk show, the first of three he would host in his broadcasting career, which debuted the same day Carson took over the late night show.

The show was broadcast under the title The Tonight Show during this interim, with Skitch Henderson returning as bandleader. Hugh Downs remained as announcer/sidekick until taking over hosting duties on Today in September, at which point he was replaced by Ed Herlihy.

Johnny Carson (1962–92)[edit]

Carson as Carnac the Magnificent, one of his most well-known routines
New Year's Eve 1962, with (L-R) Skitch Henderson, Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon.

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 band during the Henderson era. [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.

Jay Leno (1992–2009)[edit]

Jay Leno in 1993
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[4] (despite Leno having been Carson's permanent guest host for several years).[5] Letterman, having had his heart set on the earlier time slot, (on Carson's advice) 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.[6] After Leno's first run as host of The Tonight Show, Conan O'Brien took over as host.

Conan O'Brien (2009–10)[edit]

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." What was to be 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 recording the show in Burbank. Leno, meanwhile, went on to host The Jay Leno Show, a prime-time talk show which aired before O'Brien's Tonight Show.

2010 Timeslot conflict and Leno's return[edit]

O'Brien quickly gained online support during the controversy.[7]

After a strong start, O'Brien's audience tailed off significantly within a few months; at one point he attracted two million fewer viewers than Letterman. Furthermore, Leno's 10 p.m. show, while it did fairly well, was unpopular with NBC affiliates since it reduced the lead-in audience to their 11 p.m. local newscasts.[8]

On January 7, 2010, multiple media outlets reported that beginning March 1, 2010, Leno would move from his 10 p.m. weeknight time slot to 11:35 p.m. due to Leno and O'Brien's sagging ratings, as well as pressure from NBC affiliates.[9][10] Leno's show would be shortened from an hour to 30 minutes. This would move The Tonight Show to 12:05 a.m., a post-midnight time slot 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 a choice: an hour-long 12:05 a.m. 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 was moved to a 12:05 a.m. 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 in which he would leave The Tonight Show and receive a $33 million payout. His staff of almost 200 would receive $12 million in their departure. O'Brien's final episode aired on Friday, January 22, ending his relationship with NBC after 22 years. Leno resumed hosting The Tonight Show on March 1, 2010.[16][17][18] O'Brien returned to late-night television on November 8, 2010 (after his non-compete clause expired) hosting Conan on cable channel TBS.

Leno's second tenure (2010–14)[edit]

Leno and President Barack Obama on the set of The Tonight Show during a break in taping, October 25, 2011.

On March 1, 2010, Jay Leno returned to The Tonight Show, with Wally Wingert as his announcer. On April 12, 2010, bandleader Kevin Eubanks announced his departure after 18 years on May 28.[19] He was replaced as bandleader by Rickey Minor on June 7.[20] On July 1, 2010, Variety reported that only six months into its second life, Jay Leno's Tonight Show posted its lowest ratings since 1992.[21] By September 2010, Leno's ratings had fallen below those of Conan O'Brien when he had hosted The Tonight Show.[22] NBC ratings specialist Tom Bierbaum commented that due to the host being out of late-night television for a period of time and the subsequent 2010 Tonight Show conflict, Leno's ratings fall was "not a surprise at all."[23] In October 2010, David Letterman beat Leno's program in the ratings, for the first time since Leno returned to hosting The Tonight Show.[24][25] By May 2011, however, Leno regained the lead over Letterman and held it ever since.[26] In August 2012, The Los Angeles Times reported that The Tonight Show was in trouble for a number of reasons, notably that NBC was losing money.[27] The Times later elaborated, noting that advertising revenue from The Tonight Show had dropped more than 40% since 2007, from $255.9 million annually to $146.1 million.[28] Still, despite these problems, during 2012–13, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno was consistently the highest-ranking late-night show, regularly achieving audiences of over 3.5 million, according to Nielsen ratings. Leno's audience became considerably smaller after its peak 2002–03 season, when it routinely attracted 5.8 million viewers a night. This was partly due to the continuing fragmentation of the TV audience, with an increasing number of cable shows, such as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report and Conan O'Brien's new show on TBS,[29] in addition to competition with Letterman on CBS and since January 8, 2013, Jimmy Kimmel Live! on ABC.

Jimmy Fallon (2014–present)[edit]

Fallon at his desk on the show's premiere episode.

On April 3, 2013, NBC announced that Jay Leno would retire in 2014, with Jimmy Fallon taking over The Tonight Show after the conclusion of NBC's coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics. It was Leno's suggestion to use NBC's coverage of the Olympics as a springboard for Fallon's tenure.[30] The date was later moved up a week to February 17, midway through the Olympics.[31]

On March 20, 2013, NBC confirmed that The Tonight Show would be brought back to New York City after 42 years in Southern California, including O'Brien's tenure at Universal Studios Hollywood. Approximately $5 million was budgeted to renovate Studio 6B, where Fallon recorded Late Night, for The Tonight Show's return to New York City when Fallon becomes host in 2014.[32] The move also enabled NBC to take advantage of a newly enacted New York state tax credit for talk shows that are "filmed before a studio audience of at least 200, as long as they carry a production budget of at least $30 million and have been shot outside New York for at least five seasons."[33] Studio 6B is also where Jack Paar hosted The Tonight Show.[citation needed] Johnny Carson hosted The Tonight Show there for ten years before the show was moved to Burbank in 1972.[citation needed]

On September 3, 2013, Fallon moved his current show, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, to Studio 6A (where David Letterman and Conan O'Brien hosted their respective versions of Late Night) until construction is complete. Studio 6B's new look and infrastructure will be able to seat 240 people, up from its current capacity of 189 seats.[32] NBC also confirmed that Lorne Michaels (also known as the producer of Saturday Night Live, in which Fallon appeared prior to hosting Late Night) will become executive producer of The Tonight Show. On June 11, 2013, NBC announced that The Tonight Show will be renamed The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, returning the usage of the word "starring" in the show title not seen since 1992, with former The Daily Show executive producer Josh Lieb joining the The Tonight Show in the role of producer.[34]

With Fallon's debut, the Tonight and Late Night franchises are based in the same city for the first time. Fallon's first broadcast aired as scheduled on Feb. 17, 2014, with his initial guests being Will Smith and the rock band U2, plus an assortment of celebrity cameos, including an appearance by one of Fallon's direct broadcast competitors, Stephen Colbert, and another by former permanent guest host Joan Rivers, making her first appearance on Tonight since cutting ties with Carson in 1986. The show's opening sequence was directed by filmmaker Spike Lee.[35]

Music and announcers[edit]

Music during the show's introduction and commercial segues is supplied by The Tonight Show Band. This ensemble was a jazz big band until the end of Johnny Carson's tenure. Skitch Henderson was the bandleader during the Steve Allen and early Carson years, followed briefly by Milton DeLugg (who had previously led the band on Broadway Open House and later became 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 originally provided musical accompaniment during the short run of Tonight! America After Dark, which ran for six months between the Steve Allen/Ernie Kovacs and Jack Paar eras of The Tonight Show, but was later replaced by the Mort Lindsey Quartet, which in turn, was replaced by the Johnny Guarnieri Quartet. José Melis led the band for Jack Paar, and, after a short while of using comic actor Franklin Pangborn, Hugh Downs was Paar's 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 big band featured several accomplished sidemen in addition to saxophonist Newsom, including trumpeter Snooky Young, pianist Ross Tompkins, drummer Ed Shaughnessy, trumpeter John Audino, 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...?"

When Carson's tenure ended in 1992, the orchestra was axed and replaced by a smaller ensemble. The first bandleader during Leno's tenure was Branford Marsalis. In 1992, The Tonight Show Band also welcomed its first female member, Vicki Randle.[36] In 1995, Marsalis was replaced by Kevin Eubanks, 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 was selected, though original bandleader Kevin Eubanks returned for a few weeks in the transition. He officially announced his departure after 18 years on April 12, 2010, with his final episode airing May 28. Rickey Minor was announced as his replacement, and took over on June 7.

With the return of Leno's Tonight Show in March 2010, Melendez continued in the writing role, which he was assigned to on the prime-time The Jay Leno Show. Melendez did not return as announcer on the second incarnation of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (the job went to Wally Wingert), and is now employed as a staff writer and occasional on-air segment host.

Jimmy Fallon began hosting The Tonight Show on February 17, 2014; his house band on Late Night, The Roots, joined him, as did announcer Steve Higgins.

Broadcasting milestones[edit]

The Tonight Show began its broadcast at 11:15 p.m. 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.[37] After February 1965, Johnny Carson refused to appear until 11:30, and Ed McMahon "hosted" the 11:15 segment. Carson was not happy with this arrangement, and he finally insisted that the show's start time be changed to 11:30. As a result, the two-opening practice was eliminated in December 1966.[38]

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.[39][40] Color broadcasts began on September 19, 1960.[41]

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.

Schedule[edit]

Throughout the years, the time at which The Tonight Show aired and the length has changed multiple times.[42]

First run episodes[edit]

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, 1967 September 5, 1980 Mon-Fri 11:30 1:00 Carson
September 8, 1980 August 30, 1991 Mon-Fri 11:30 12:30 Carson
September 2, 1991 February 6, 2014[43] Mon-Fri 11:35 12:35 Carson, Leno, O'Brien, Leno
February 17, 2014 present Mon-Fri 11:34 12:36 Fallon

§Note that many NBC affiliates chose not to carry the first fifteen minutes of the show during this period, instead preferring to air a local newscast from 11 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. As of February 1965, Carson refused to host the first 15 minutes of the program, preferring to wait until the full network was in place before delivering his opening monologue. For nearly two years, until the show's start time was adjusted to 11:30 p.m. in January 1967, the host for the opening 15 minutes of The Tonight Show was announcer Ed McMahon.

Weekend repeats[edit]

From 1965 to 1975, until the advent of Saturday Night Live, weekend repeats of The Tonight Show were staples of the NBC schedule. These repeats ran in the following time slots:

Begin date End date Nights Start End Notes
January 2, 1965 January 1, 1967 Sat or Sun 11:15 1:00 Repeats, known as The Saturday/Sunday Tonight Show
January 7, 1967 September 28, 1975 Sat or Sun 11:30 1:00 Repeats; known as The Best of Carson and The Weekend Tonight Show

Gags, sketches, and segments[edit]

Allen

  • 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.

Paar

  • Candid Camera: The off-again, on-again show, hosted by Allen Funt since radio's heyday, was a segment on The Tonight Show in 1958.[44]
  • 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.

Carson

  • 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, he 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!"). Carnac appears to be modeled after one of Allen's earlier gags, "The Question Man," in which Allen is given an answer to which he then provides the punchline in the form of a question.
  • 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.

Leno

  • Headlines (Monday): Humorous print items sent in by viewers. These real-life headlines usually contain 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 p.m. ET/PT time slot, the lead Headline on the final broadcasting of this segment was 4 Out Of 5 Scientists Say "Headlines" Funnier at 10 p.m. Than 11:30 p.m.
  • Jaywalking: A prerecorded 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. Up to 15 people are interviewed in an hour or less for each segment, with about nine interviews used on the air.
  • Stuff We Found on eBay: Outrageous, real-life items available on the auction Web site E-Bay are shown, with the audience asked to guess whether or not the item was sold.
  • Unusual Mother's Day, Father's Day, Christmas gifts: Gift items appropriate for holidays are shown; some real, some phony, but all unusual

O'Brien

  • Twitter Tracker: In this sketch, Conan is interrupted by an overzealous announcer (voiced by show writer Brian McCann) while lamenting the increasing number of celebrities who are using Twitter. The announcer attempts to prove to Conan that celebrity tweets are exciting by reading some of his favorites, which all describe mundane activities. The sketch is always accompanied by increasingly elaborate animations in which the bird from the Twitter logo is repeatedly killed. It also includes the announcer trying to persuade Conan to play a game by using a rhyming sentence in which he refers to him as CoCo.
  • Wax Fonzie/Wax Tom Cruise: While visiting a warehouse full of poor quality celebrity wax figures, Conan identified two as his favorite and purchased them. One was of Henry Winkler as his Happy Days character Arthur Fonzarelli (whose hand positioning caused Conan to comment that he had just finished up at the urinal), and the other was a creepy-looking figure of Tom Cruise. Both wax figures made several appearances on the show, most notably by both being shot out of a cannon used for a bit. Wax Tom Cruise for the most part survived, while Wax Fonzie's face became irreplaceable. Wax Fonzie ultimately met its final fate when it was obliterated in an explosion, part of a contest involving blowing up the contest winner's old car.
  • Ridiculously Expensive Sketches: As an act of mock revenge for NBC forcing him out of The Tonight Show's traditional time slot, O'Brien spent the last few episodes debuting sketches that ostensibly would cost NBC an extremely large amount of money. The sketches used rare and expensive props (usually on loan) and contained media with unusually high licensing fees.

Fallon

Many of Fallon's sketches moved over from Late Night.

Time slots and International broadcasts[edit]

Country TV Network(s) Weekly Schedule (local time)
 Australia The Comedy Channel Weeknights 12.00 a.m. AEST
 Australia ABC2 Weeknights 7:30 p.m. AEST
 Brazil GNT Weeknights 11.30 p.m.
 Canada CTV 2 & Access Simulcast with NBC's broadcast
 Denmark DR3 (as The Tonight Show) Weeknights 12.20 a.m. CET, 10:35 a.m. CET rerun
 Dominican Republic Cable de Tricom (as Tonight Show) Simulcast with NBC's ET broadcast
 Turkey e2 (as The Tonight Show) Weeknights 11 p.m. EET
 Europe CNBC Europe Weeknights 12 a.m. CET, Weekends 9 p.m. CET
 Germany joiz Germany (as The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon) Monday thru Thursday 10 p.m. CET
 India Zee Cafe Weeknights 12 a.m. IST
 Israel yes stars Comedy (as Jimmy Fallon) Weeknights 7:00 p.m.
 Pakistan CNBC Pakistan (as Tonight Show)
 Philippines Jack TV (as The Tonight Show) Tuesday to Saturday 3 p.m. (via satellite) / Tuesday to Saturday 11 p.m. (late telecast)
 Portugal +TVI (as Especial Jimmy Fallon) Weeknights 11:15 p.m.
 Romania Antena 3 (as Tonight Show) Weeknights 12:25 a.m.
 Sweden Kanal 9 (as The Tonight Show med Jimmy Fallon) Weeknights around 11:50 p.m., 7:10 a.m. rerun
  Switzerland joiz (as The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon) Monday thru Thursday 10 p.m. CET
 Finland MTV3 MAX (as Tonight Show) Weeknights 11:20 p.m., Repeated on weekday mornings
 South Africa CNBC Africa (as Tonight Show)
 United Kingdom CNBC (as The Tonight Show) Weeknights 11 p.m.

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 p.m. 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 1990s 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.[45]

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) OK, we're gonna have to cut away. We're just gonna see a commercial. We sell things occasionally. It's not like the British telly, you know. You just go forever, ten or twelve [minutes]. British television ends when they – you know, when they want to.
McCartney: (jokingly) Yeah, you're just mad because they didn't like your show.[46]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ De Moraes, Lisa (December 30, 2013). "UPDATE: NBC "Taking Every Precaution" In Wake of Russian Violence Walking Up To Sochi Olympics". Deadline.com. Retrieved December 31, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Show Business: Late-Night Affair". Time Magazine. August 18, 1958. Retrieved 2009-10-15. 
  3. ^ a b Susman, Gary (January 27, 2004). "Tonight Show icon Jack Paar dies". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2009-10-15. 
  4. ^ "Carson Feeds Letterman Lines". New York Post. January 20, 2005. Retrieved 2006-12-17. 
  5. ^ Carter, Bill (June 7, 1991). "NBC Appoints Jay Leno To Replace Johnny Carson". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-10-15. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ "I'm With Coco": Inside the Conan O'Brien support movement, a 13 January 2010 PopWatch article from Entertainment Weekly
  8. ^ Carter, Bill (January 7, 2009). "NBC May Be Considering Reinstating Leno on 'Tonight Show'". Media Decoder (The New York Times). Retrieved 2010-01-08. 
  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?". Deadline.com. Retrieved 2013-09-07. 
  12. ^ [1][dead link]
  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, MSNBC.com, January 12, 2010
  16. ^ "NBC Announces That Jay Leno Will Return To Host "The Tonight Show" Beginning March 1-Ratings". TVbytheNumbers. 2010-01-21. Retrieved 2011-12-22. 
  17. ^ NBC Universal Confirms Conan O'Brien Exit Deal Signed from Bloomberg via Business Week
  18. ^ [2][dead link]
  19. ^ "Kevin Eubanks To Leave 'Tonight Show' In May". Access Hollywood. Retrieved 2012-06-28. 
  20. ^ Permalink (2010-04-13). "Rickey Minor ('American Idol') Named the New Music Director of 'The Tonight Show With Jay Leno'". NBC.com. Retrieved 2011-12-22. 
  21. ^ Levine, Stuart (2010-07-01). "'Kimmel,' 'Nightline' show demo increase". Variety. 
  22. ^ Pike, Julie (September 7, 2010). "Tonight Show Ratings Plummet-Jay Leno Sinks Beneath Conan O'Brien Numbers". The National Ledger (The National Ledger, LLC). Retrieved 2010-10-04. 
  23. ^ Piccalo, Gina (October 24, 2010). "Comedians Laugh as Leno Sinks". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2010-10-26. 
  24. ^ Poniewozik, James (November 5, 2010). "Letterman Defeats Leno! Stewart Defeats Both!". Time magazine. Retrieved 2010-11-08. 
  25. ^ "Letterman Beats Leno in All Measures". The Hollywood Reporter (hollywoodreporter.com). November 4, 2010. Retrieved 2010-11-08. 
  26. ^ Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon Finish #1 vs. ABC and CBS Competition in the May 2011 Sweep NBCUniversal. June 3, 2011. Retrieved June 4, 2011.
  27. ^ Collins, Scott (August 27, 2012). "'The Tonight Show' experiences dark days – The NBC program starring Jay Leno suffers a ratings slide and layoffs amid instability in the TV business – and after network missteps. And the stakes are rising.". Los Angeles Times. 
  28. ^ Flint, Joe (March 21, 2013). "Jimmy Fallon will inherit real estate that has lost a lot of value". Los Angeles Times. "Advertising for NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno has fallen by more than 40% since 2007, according to Kanter Media, an industry consulting firm. In 2007, The Tonight Show took in $255.9 million. Last year, that figure was $146.1 million." 
  29. ^ Late-Night TV Viewers Scattering Los Angeles Times. April 3, 2013. Retrieved May 4, 2013.
  30. ^ Carter, Bill (April 3, 2013). "Leno Blesses 'Tonight Show' Succession Plan". The New York Times. Retrieved August 15, 2013. 
  31. ^ "UPDATE: NBC "Taking Every Precaution" In Wake of Russian Violence Walking Up To Sochi Olympics". Deadline.com. 2013-12-30. Retrieved 2014-02-10. 
  32. ^ a b "NBC Dumps $25 Million Jimmy Fallon NYC 'Tonight Show' Studio". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2013-05-18. 
  33. ^ "Tonight Shows' NYC Move To Save NBC $20 Million in Tax Credits". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2014-02-07. 
  34. ^ AJ Marechal (11 June 2013). "‘Late Night’ Writer Amy Ozols to Produce Jimmy Fallon’s ‘Tonight Show’". Variety. Penske Business Media, LLC. Retrieved 20 October 2013. 
  35. ^ https://twitter.com/FallonTonight/status/435643124497383424
  36. ^ Heldenfels, R.D. (March 16, 2008). "Who's that lady?". Tulsa World. 
  37. ^ Leamer, Laurence (2005). King of the Night: The Life of Johnny Carson. HarperCollins. p. 183. ISBN 978-0-06-084099-0. 
  38. ^ Encyclopedia of Television (2nd ed.). Museum of Broadcast Communications. 2004. p. 2356. ISBN 978-1-57958-411-5. 
  39. ^ "Paar Set On Tape". The Washington Post: G3. January 11, 1959. 
  40. ^ "Visitors to the TV Studios". New York Times: X14. February 22, 1959. 
  41. ^ "Hollywood Tie-Line". The Washington Post: H5. September 18, 1960. 
  42. ^ "The Tonight Show – The Museum of Broadcast Communications". The Museum of Broadcast Communications. Retrieved January 22, 2010. 
  43. ^ "It's Official: Leno Exiting Prime-time-Ratings". TVbytheNumbers. 2010-01-10. Retrieved 2011-12-22. 
  44. ^ "Candid Camera Timeline". Retrieved 2009-10-15. 
  45. ^ Media News (October 6, 2006). "Zee Café brings you the current season of 'The Tonight Show with Jay Leno'". Zee Cafe. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2009-10-15. 
  46. ^ Video on YouTube[dead link]

External links[edit]