Jay Leno Sounds Off on Tonight Show Layoffs, Says Being No. 1 at NBC 'Is Frowned Upon'

Jay Leno used his first monologue of the week to comment on layoffs at NBC’s The Tonight Show, which went down last Friday as the result of belt-tightening by parent company, Comcast.

All told, at least 20 staffers at TV’s No. 1 late-night talker were let go — and the loss could have been greater had Leno himself not taken what has been described as a “tremendous” pay cut to free up some coin. (The veteran talk show host’s previous annual salary was said to have been north of $27 million.)

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Leno opened his Monday night monologue by welcoming viewers to The Tonight Show “or as Comcast calls us, The Expendables.” He then said he had an inkling the axe was coming seeing as the show ranks No. 1 in the ratings, which at struggling NBC “is frowned upon.”

Watch Leno’s complete commentary here:

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30 Comments
  1. TigerNightmare says:

    Whiny douche. You weren’t #1 at 10 o’clock.

    • Ann says:

      But he was #1 in Late Night before and after Conan stunk it up. NBC should never have forced him to move in the first place.

      • TigerNightmare says:

        Wrong. Leno was allowed to build an audience over a longer period of time in a more hospitable environment with less competition AND decent 10 PM shows as lead-ins. Conan got 9 months against Letterman, Kimmel, cable programming with a horrible money sinkhole of a lead-in. The only people who watch Leno regularly only do it out of habit, much like I watched every Full House until I turned 12 because I realized it wasn’t funny or entertaining. Count the amount of times you laugh during Leno’s stale monologue. If it’s more than 0, you make me sad. If it’s more than 0, you do not collect a salary for your opinion. If it’s more than 0, you look forward to the cheesy jokes printed on popsicle sticks. If it’s more than 0, you might be a redneck. If it’s more than 0, you’re likely to be an undecided voter. If it’s more than 0, I demand drug and blood alcohol level tests. If it’s more than 0, I bet you were alive when prohibition ended. If it’s more than 0, you own Scary Movie on DVD. If it’s more than 0, you still think we’re going to find Saddam’s WMDs. I could go on, but I have things to do. Seriously, count how many times you laugh.

      • Jake says:

        Exactly Anne — why must we once again do the Kay bashing. It’s once again NBC treating its on air personalities with such disregard. The tonight show and today show are the only shows pulling in money for the network.

    • Jared says:

      As if that matters?! Holding to the past we see….

  2. ChalexFan says:

    One thing for sure NBC really sucks!!!

  3. Team Coco says:

    oh woe is me woe is me, Leno has said repeatedly that he never touches a dime of tonight show money and lives off stand up money. IF he’s so concerned for the lost staff, take no salary and budget all those millions for the staff.

    • SarahtheBaker says:

      A fine thing you’re suggesting: veritable TV communism. You act as if he has no right to make money off a show bearing his name. Wonder how much Conan makes? According to reports it’s $12 million. Leno took a paycut; beyond that, it’s the network’s job to make it work or axe it.

      • maria says:

        Before you go spouting off about communism, better learn what it’s actually about. But then, people like you only parrott back what you’ve heard on Faux News. Oh, and I bet you’re an expert on the Constitution.

        • Sarahthebaker says:

          Oh really? Communism is defined as
          1) Any political philosophy or ideology advocating holding the production of resources collectively.
          2) Any political social system that implements a communist political philosophy.
          3) The international socialist society where classes and the state no longer exist.

          The idea that an individual is not entitled to wages simply because they are wealthy (what was suggested Jay Leno should do) is inherently suggestible under the first (aka “primary”) definition of the term, as under the system, all resources (aka “money” in this case) belongs to the group. This is simply not true.

          Anybody calling for a headliner to go without pay because the workers are being laid off just because he’s rich is wealth distribution at best and simply communist at worst. He works for his money, and by virtue of his name and talent, others are employed.

          As a worker in a corporate environment with a husband who owns his own business, I know what it is to be in both situations.

  4. CJ says:

    While I have NO love for Jay Leno, it definitely sucks that more and more people are losing their jobs right now. I hope they land on their feet.

  5. aleksa says:

    I’m more of a Conan fan, but I’ll give at least some props to anyone willing to take a pay cut to save some jobs.

  6. Renee says:

    I’m glad he has a forum to get his displeasure over firings heard. Most of us have to bitch to friends. And good for him taking a pay cut to prevent more firings.

  7. Esaul says:

    As much as I hate Leno he did the honorable thing but taking a pay cut. However it doesn’t counter the fact that he doesn’t use any of his Tonight Show money. If he cares so much about being number one and about his staff, he’d pay from his pockets to help out with that cut. But he could’ve been selfish and did nothing.

  8. Marie says:

    Aww. What a nice guy. With his yearly income he could have afforded a MORE “tremendous”paycut and NBC coluld have kept ALL the employees and put their grandkids through college. Maybe he could have sold a few of his Harleys and some cars too that big phoney.

  9. Bethany says:

    This makes no sense to me. The Tonight Show is making not losing money. Why would they need to cut staff if they are currently turning a profit? To make a bigger profit? Just cut Jay’s salary, since he banks it all, and pay the folks that work for him.

  10. davey says:

    I can’t wait until Jay Lame-o is taken off the air.

  11. Craig says:

    Where were the cuts from? I do not know what the situation was there but a staff of 150 might be excesive from management

  12. Shaun says:

    If he was getting 27mill a year then something is broken.

  13. Justin says:

    If NBC needs to make such drastic cuts, they should take some of Matt Lauer’s salary. The guy does not deserve what he makes.

  14. ed says:

    i think its funny that everyone hates Leno when really they have no reason 2… in 2004 conan said that he would leave NBC if he didnt get the tonight show so NBC told this to leno and they set a 2009 finale for his tonight show even though he wasnt quite ready to leave. NBC wanted to keep leno and leno didnt want to retire just yet so they gave him another talk show. also it wasnt really Jay’s fault that the show didnt work, cuz i really dont think that a talk show can survive in primetime due to its repetitive and cliche nature… also you know whats funny is that i had the opposite reaction to this in that i used to like conan and lost a little respect for him after that. i also feel bad for leno because of the fact everyone hates him, when i really dont think they should.

    • Deena says:

      Then NBC should have let Conan go and do his own thing at that point just like Letterman left when he did not get The Tonight Show from Johnny Carson. If NBC felt they wanted to keep Jay at the network they should have told Conan that instead of jerking him around to try to keep both men employed at the network, They made a decision & instead of sticking with Conan even though he had NO SUPPORT going into his show, they went back on their word to stroke Jay’s ego.

      If you notice, all the other late night hosts will appear on each other’s shows except Leno. They all pretty much like & respect each other but each of them recognize what he pulled with Conan while trying to make himself look like an innocent bystander was just crap. And that’s why a lot of the public doesn’t like him either.

    • tripoli says:

      I have plenty of reasons to dislike Leno. First and foremost, his not being funny.

    • TigerNightmare says:

      I have passionately hated Leno for years, probably even before Conan debuted in 1993. He is obnoxiously unfunny. His humor is childish cheeseball garbage. I hate his face that looks like a giant, mutated chili pepper. I hate his beady little eyes. I hate his muppet voice. I hate his former band leader and sidekick, Kevin, who was mic’d not for his ability to be an able, quick-witted sidekick, but because he has a very loud and pronounced cackle for every single asinine joke Jay’s tepid delivery can muster. And I’m sure almost everyone here has read about, heard about or seen the movie on HBO about the previous late night war, where even Johnny Carson considered Letterman to be his successor, only for him to be usurped by a total hack.

      NBC may be to blame for the entire Conan/Jay mess, but unlike Conan, Leno is far from blameless. NBC wanted to keep Conan who probably would have left for another network, which he would be totally within his right to do so. I refuse to believe that they simply blindsided Leno with this development. They spoke to him and he more or less signed off on it, then he went on his show to congratulate Conan and lie to everyone about how he was ready to retire. FIVE long years after the announcement, with Leno’s time behind Tonight nearing its end, he decides that he needs something to do and he deserves to have another show on TV. Rather than NBC allowing him to flounder on some other poor network, they devised the worst idea ever. On the night of the new show’s debut, Conan called it, “The Night of 1000 Monologues.” So when this moronic experiment failed and NBC proposed they let Jay have the first half hour of The Tonight Show time slot, instead of Jay saying, “This isn’t fair to Conan, I’m not #1 anymore, I should just go back to stand-up and appearances,” he goes along with it like a good corporate lapdog. Conan says, “This isn’t fair to Jimmy,” and refuses. Leno does interviews and claims and admits that he had lied on The Tonight Show to be a good corporate tool.

      Six months upon returning to Tonight, despite Leno’s claims of being #1, his show had the worst ratings for The Tonight Show since 1992 … when he first started as official host. His ratings have somewhat recovered since then, but he has not become any less complacent as a TV host. He still relies on the cornball humor, newspaper typos, exploiting ignorant morons on LA sidewalks (who are probably big fans of his, ironically) and giving dull, uninspired interviews. And he’s fat.

      No, Conan did not make me hate Leno. Leno made me hate Leno.

  15. ejknight says:

    When Leno went to primetime his staff increased in size. When he came back to the Tonight Show he brought them all. The head count was never trimmed for the smaller budgeted daypart. This should have happened 2 years ago when he returned.

  16. Liekiller says:

    Still a Democrat Jay? What’s happening at NBC is a microcosm of what Obama is doing to this country. See Jay’s show is a producer, it MAKES money. NBC news is losing viewership so it’s losing money. So they take from Jay’s show to keep the news running. If NBC news would only be unbiased in their reporting they’d up their audience and support themselves. NBC News, the welfare recipients of the TV industry.