At one table, you have mornings: Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, Natalie Morales, Al Roker, Willie Geist, Norah O'Donnell, Charle Rose, Gayle King, Lara Spencer, Robin Roberts, Josh Elliot, George Stephanopoulos and Ginger Zee.
At another table, you have evenings: Brian Williams, Diane Sawyer, Anderson Cooper, Scott Pelley.
There's entertainment: Giuliana Rancic, Terrence Jenkins, Ryan Seacrest, Mario Lopez, Catt Sadler, Jason Kennedy, Nancy O'Dell, etc.
Midday: Kelly Ripa, Michael Strahan, Ellen Degeneres, Barbara Walters, etc.
The legends: Dan Rather, Roone Arledge, Walter Cronkite, Tom Brokaw, David Brinkley.
And then the late night: Conan O'Brien, David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Jay Leno.
I always pictured the evening news table the "popular kids." Cool, collected, classy, kind. If only for a day, that's where I want to sit. Or at least I'd want an invite to the prom to come from their table. The entertainment table is definitely the most fun. I feel like they'd just laugh until the bell rang? I'd like to sit with mornings too - trust me, that's the dream... but I feel like they're not as liked across the board as the evenings are. But late night is the party table. Late night has genuine good fun, is there to bid goodnight to America. And I'm pretty sure they have Dunkaroos and Sunny D (but you didn't hear it from me.)
Late night is full of rich history, it explains society and the world through laughter, and the hosts are as much of our family as our parents are. For those of us who turn on a certain show every night without fail, it is a big deal when the host leaves. Late Night tucks you into bed on your good days, and cuddles for a little on your bad.
Jay Leno has hosted The Tonight Show with Jay Leno since 1992 (this was before I was born). He left for a brief 146 episodes but returned, and in total hosted 4,610 episodes. He has never had an agent, and does not have a manager. He has interviewed Presidents, musicians, news makers and culture-shakers, and commented on tragedies, celebrations and just an average Wednesday.
In his final goodbye, Leno thanked his audience, and said he would not have been on the air without them. He said these have been the greatest 22 years of his life. Please do not forget the immense prestige, power and potential The Tonight Show boasts. He calls The Tonight Show an institution. I love love love that word. It is based in rich history, tradition and professionalism. He quoted Johnny Carson, and he cried. There is something so so special about sitting in a seat that an icon has sat in before you. I say special but even that doesn't seem enough. Please recall Jay Leno is only the 5th person in the entire world to ever do what he did: Host The Tonight Show.
Watch Leno's Goodbye Here. And please do yourself the favor and watch it.
Jimmy Fallon, formerly on SNL and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, will be taking Leno's seat and bringing Tonight to NYC on February 17th, which is also the 60th anniversary of the show. I happen to love Jimmy Fallon. Leno said it makes total sense that Fallon takes over his job- he is young and connected. He's collaborated musically with both Justin Timberlake and Miley Cyrus. He will surely usher in the new generation (I think this means me?) into the Late Night television world. The new generation will grow up with this show, the way my parents' generation did with Leno.
Further, Fallon does everything with such excitement and vigor. You can tell he is still the kid who came home from school and stayed up late to sneak in some late night television. I'm excited to see where he takes the show. But what I really love the most is watching these men navigate the transition. You can see how grateful and humbled Leno is in his final moments on the show, and you can see how hopeful and wide-eyed Fallon is as the torch is passed to him.
I'm curious to watch it happen. Torch-passing is not always easy, as we learned from The Today Show and the book that inspired this blog post.
At the close of his show, Leno joked that now that he had brought the room down, everyone needed some lifting up. Out came Garth Brooks to sing Friends in Low Places. Please understand I've cried every time I've watched this clip.
Blame it all on my roots
I showed up in boots
and ruined your black tie affair
I knew the lyrics to this song before I was in 1st Grade. If you will, this song is in my roots. I have vivid memories of this song blasting in the living room in our Melville, Long Island house. My dad would play it, and I'd sing and bop along. I love this song. I would argue this song is the reason my love of country music resurfaced years later.
In his last goodbye, Leno said, "And when people say to me, 'why don't you go to ABC, why don't you go to Fox?' I don't know anybody there." It got a laugh but I don't think it was supposed to be funny. The point is, NBC is Leno's roots.
And you know what they say about roots. You're never supposed to forget them.
Thank you, Jay Leno! Fallon promised that whenever you want a stage, you've got one. And I think it's a sure bet your seat at the cafeteria table is safe too.
You heard it here first,