Jay Leno finally “commented” on the news that broke more than a week ago that NBC is setting a plan in place to replace him with Jimmy Fallon at the end of next season.
Leno and “The Tonight Show” were just beginning a one-week hiatus when the news about the Fallon replacement plan broke earlier this month.
When the show finally returned Monday night, Leno had at least two lines in his monologue that referred directly to the situation — one subtle, and the other one a lot more direct.
Still, none of the jibes mentioned his show, his situation or Fallon and his status specifically.
That’s vintage Leno — he takes his shots, but then makes them just vague enough so he doesn’t draw NBC’s ire (not that he should care about that at this point).
At the same time, though, the audience knows exactly what he’s talking about.
Of course, one of the lines was pretty pointed. It went like this: “According to a survey,” Leno said, “12 percent of workers admit to having sex at work. Now, I myself have never had sex at work. I’ve been screwed by my employer, [italics added] but I have never, never, never had sex!”
That joke came in the middle of his monologue Monday night. The other reference he made to his situation came right at the beginning of the monologue, as the studio audience greeted him with a standing ovation. “You all look surprised to see me!” Jay said in mock surprise. “I’m shocked!”
Certainly, we interpreted these two lines as referring directly to Leno’s situation as NBC reportedly prepares to send him off with one final season starting in September. (Other than denying it, NBC has issued no further comment on the story, which broke March 1.)
Of course, Leno’s shots at NBC are nothing new, though jibes about his own situation are a lot rarer than the ones he makes almost routinely about NBC and its ratings struggles. For example, Monday’s monologue had one of those jokes too.
“Right before he died, [late Venezuelan President] Hugo Chavez did have some last words,” Jay said. “He said he was just happy he lived long enough to see Univision beat NBC!”