March 24, 2013

Leno makes NBC punch line amid reports he'll be canned

The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - Jay Leno is keeping up a comedy assault on his NBC bosses even after being treated to a make-nice dinner.

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“Tonight Show” host Jay Leno is taking on-air jabs at NBC amid reports that the network plans to replace him with Jimmy Fallon.

The Associated Press

Jimmy Fallon, Jay Leno
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Jimmy Fallon

During his monologue Friday, the "Tonight Show" host asked his Burbank studio audience if they'd heard about his "alleged feud" with NBC.

Leno started taking on-air potshots at the network this month amid reports that the network plans to replace him at "Tonight" with Jimmy Fallon.

According to a NBC transcript from Friday's taping, Leno said that he had dinner Thursday with a "bunch of NBC executives" who offered to make things up to him: He and his wife are going on an all-expenses paid Carnival Cruise, he joked.

In February, passengers endured five nightmarish days on a crippled Carnival Cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico.

In another wisecrack, Leno cited news reports of a Canadian man who had a knife pulled from his back after three years. Sniped Leno: "He must have worked at NBC, too."

NBC confirmed this week it's creating a new studio for Fallon in New York, where he hosts "Late Night." But the network did not comment on a report that the digs at its Rockefeller Plaza headquarters may become home to a transplanted, Fallon-hosted "Tonight."

This isn't the first time the "Tonight" stage has been used for a workplace dispute. In 2010, when Conan O'Brien briefly took over as "Tonight" host and Leno was moved to prime-time at NBC, the two traded on-air barbs.

Although late-night hosts are known for needling their network bosses, the timing of Leno's latest jabs seemed to make NBC's executives particularly uncomfortable and they asked him to stop. They don't want a repeat of the publicly messy turnover of just three years ago.

The 62-year-old Leno's current contract expires next year. For NBC, the 38-year-old Fallon represents a bid to launch a next-generation host for "Tonight" -- although Leno has kept the show No. 1 in the ratings despite a challenge from Jimmy Kimmel's ABC show.

"You know the whole legend of St. Patrick, right? St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland -- and then they came to the United States and became NBC executives," Leno joked on Monday's show.

On Tuesday, he played off a news report about a Serbian woman with a rare brain condition that causes her to see the world upside down: "Isn't that crazy? It's unbelievable. She sees everything upside down. In fact, she thinks NBC is at the top of the ratings."


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