First, here is a brief look back at the list of the past Tonight Show hosts:
Steve Allen (1954 to 1957) – He was the original host of the Tonight Show and is thought of as the ‘Daddy’ of the talk show format. You know the drill – Monologue, Comedy Sketch and Playing with the crowd. Steve Allen was SO popular he hosted the Tonight Show and another show during prime time. Maybe juggling both shows did him in, because he retired from the Tonight Show in 1957.
Jacke Lescoulie & Al “Jazzbo” Collins (1957) – These guys were radio personalities (one also was on the Today Show) that hosted the Tonight Show for six months after Steve Allen left. It must not have gone so well, because I never heard of them before doing a little research.
Jack Paar (1957 to 1962) – Jack Paar took the stage as host of the Tonight Show at the end of 1957. At some point he quit the show because a censor pulled one of his jokes. After the monologue the following evening he walked out. His announcer, Hugh Downs had to wing it the rest of the night. Jack Paar was back a month later saying, “As I was saying before I was interrupted … I believe the last thing I said was ‘There must be a better way to make a living than this.’ Well, I’ve looked – and there isn’t.” He hosted the Tonight Show for around five years.
Johnny Carson (1962 to 1992) – This is the man I think of whenever the Tonight Show is mentioned. He was the guy my siblings and I crept downstairs to watch when the parentals were asleep. During his tenure as host, the show moved from New York to Burbank, California (1972). The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson lasted thirty long years. He was and still remains the king of late night TV.
Jay Leno (1992 to 2009 & 2010 to 2014) – Jay Leno was one of the guest host comedians who filled in for Johnny Carson when he was absent. After some nasty rumors and a few cat fights (made for television movie followed), he was named as host when Johnny (yes, I feel comfortable simply calling him Johnny) called it quits. Apparently he deserved his job because his ratings were continually circling the top spot.
Conan O’Brien (June 2009 to January 2010) – Okay, here’s where it gets confusing…especially if you’ve been living under a rock for the last five years. I’ll try to make is simple: Jay Leno left the Tonight Show to host a Prime Time show midway through 2009. Late Night host Conan O’Brien moved from New York to California (cue the theme song from Beverly Hillbillies) to fill the empty seat behind the desk. Neither show really thrived or was given a chance (six months). Jay Leno was brought back to the later time slot and Conan O’Brien moved on to TBS. Suffice it to say, there were bitter feelings all around.
Jimmy Fallon (Just a few short weeks ago) – When it was time for Jay Leno to step aside (uh-hmm, again), NBC went back to the Late Night time slot and tapped Jimmy Fallon on the shoulder. The good guy, funny man took the job, but pulled the show BACK to NYC.
Alright. So now that I’m done laying the host stat cards on the table we should take a closer look.
They’re all guys. They’re all talented comedians. But there is something else the ones that have lasted longer than three years have in common…(Wait for it. Wait for it.)…The hosts who made the Tonight Show desk their home for the longest amount of time all have names that start with J. Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, Jay (heck, his name is actually pronounced J) Leno and now Jimmy Fallon. Even the guys who filled in between Steve Allen and Jack Paar had J names…one was Jazzbo, but still (Sorry Conan. You’re a very funny man. Maybe you should have changed your name to Conan J’Brien before taking the Tonight Show reins).
This BODES well for Jimmy Fallon (and of course is complete malarkey).
You can watch Jimmy (yes, I also feel comfortable simply calling him Jimmy) on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon weeknights at 11:35 on NBC.
Yes, I went there.