Jay Leno's Tonight Show Departure Appearing More Likely

Jay Leno's Tonight Show Departure Appearing More Likely

Jay Leno continues to play reports of his imminent departure from The Tonight Show strictly for laughs.

Leno said, "I have never been in the paper so much. It's fantastic!"

Thursday night he compared his situation to the March Madness of college basketball.

"You all excited about March Madness? You into March Madness? People talk about who's in, who's out, who's going to be eliminated—and that's just here at NBC."

Leno even yucked it up when a paparazzi photographer caught up with him behind the wheel of one of his classic cars and asked, "Do you think Jimmy Fallon will be a good replacement?" Leno replied, "Merry Christmas. Christmas is next week, so Merry Christmas. Talk to you soon."

Right after Thursday's show, Leno was taken out to dinner by NBC entertainment chief Robert Greenblatt, who's been unhappy with all the jokes he's been making about NBC lately.

The Hollywood Reporter staff editor Sophie Schillaci told INSIDE EDITION, "I think he was extending an olive branch to Leno to try and say hey, like we're still here, we're paying attention to you and to make sure that things were okay."

The startling move of The Tonight Show back to New York City with Jimmy Fallon as host is looking more real by the moment. The latest reports are saying NBC will get a whopping tax break if they broadcast The Tonight Show from the studio at 30 Rockefeller Center. Insiders are calling it "The Jimmy Fallon tax credit."
The mayor of beautiful downtown Burbank, Dave Golonski is pleading with NBC to keep the show right where it is.

Golonsky said, "We're really disappointed to see it happen and if there's anything we can do to get them to reconsider we would do it."

Meanwhile, Leno is taking it on the chin from his fellow comics.

Jimmy Kimmel said, "Obviously, NBC is looking to move on because they did it once already. It makes perfect sense and Jimmy Fallon is doing a great job."

Jimmy Kimmel did not mince words about Leno with CNN's Jake Tapper. 

Tapper said, "You said, 'He's like a master chef who now works at Burger King.' "

Kimmel said, "The guy's one of the great comedians."

"But you think he's dumbed down his material?" asked Tapper.

"Yeah, I think so. Yeah, I think that's fair to say," replied Kimmel.

Jimmy Fallon alluded to the controversy with this reference to the Miami Heat basketball team's winning streak, saying, "The last time the Heat lost, Conan O'Brien was the host of The Tonight Show."

You'll recall that Conan lost The Tonight Show job in 2009 when Leno wanted to come back.

Some say this video of Fallon "Mom Dancing" with First Lady Michelle Obama may help explain why NBC now wants to make the change from Leno to Fallon even though Leno's show is still rated No. 1 in late night.  The video has racked up more than 15 million views on YouTube and Fallon has a huge following on social media, while Leno doesn't even have a Twitter account.

Schillaci said, "Jimmy Fallon has a huge twitter audience and just a huge social media following. He's got a younger audience from his days on SNL and beyond and he is the youngest person in the late night space right now. "

But don't feel sorry for Jay. Fox is said to be interested in offering him a late-night talk show if he's dumped by NBC.