Jay Leno Tells 60 Minutes He Was "Blindsided" By Conan Replacement

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In an interview that will air this Sunday on CBS, Tonight Show host Jay Leno told 60 Minutes’ Steve Kroft that he felt “blindsided” when NBC executives informed him in 2004 that he’d be asked to give up his show to Conan O’Brien when his contract expired in 2009. Leno, who famously returned to his job amid controversy in March 2010 after O’Brien failed to deliver the ratings the network wanted, compared the initial ouster to the feeling of being dumped by a girlfriend.

“They [NBC executives] said ‘you’re out,’ and I went, ‘okay,” said Leno. He never asked why, he said, because, “You know, you have a girl [who] says, ‘I don’t want to see you anymore.’ Why? You know, she doesn’t want to see you anymore, okay?”

Leno went on to express bitterness about how he was treated as a villain, but had only positive things to say about his next successor, Jimmy Fallon, who he called “extremely qualified.”

“He’s probably more like a young Johnnythan almost anybody since. And he’s really good,” Leno said, comparing Fallon to talk show legend Johnny Carson. “So you go with the new guy. Makes perfect sense to me.”

Watch a clip from Sunday’s broadcast below:


Leno told Kroft that he’s sad to leave, and would have stayed if NBC wanted him. His last show will be on Thursday, Feb. 6, and sources say it’s unlikely he’ll remain at NBC in any capacity. The guests for his last week have been announced, and are as follows:

Monday, Feb. 3: Jimmy Fallon, Betty White
Tuesday, Feb. 4: Matthew McConaughey, Charles Barkley, Lyle Lovett 
Wednesday, Feb. 5: Sandra Bullock, Blake Shelton
Thursday, Feb. 6: Billy Crystal, Garth Brooks

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