No matter how NBC tries to spin it and no matter what Jay Leno says, he is not leaving on his own accord.
Back in the 80's, I went to lunch with Jay Leno at a Wendy's on Peoria Ave in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
At the time, Jay was doing stand up and had made a number of appearances on the Tonight Show and on Late Night with David Letterman. For you kids out there, Letterman used to be on NBC.
In those days Leno was known as the hardest working comedian in the business. He would do stand up just about every night.
As we ate our burgers, I asked Jay about working so many nights and if he ever got tired?
He says that if he didn't work he would die.
Leno is a workaholic, he always said he wanted to "die in the mine"...... in other words, Leno would have been more than happy to stay at the Tonight Show, until they took him out feet first.
Here is the headline of the press release that NBC sent out:
After, NBC announced yesterday that Leno was stepping down to let Jimmy take over, no one and I mean no one bought the lie that NBC was trying to sell. NBC did their best to try and stop the backlash of kicking Jay to the curb.
Dumping Leno.... make no mistake, this was 100% NBC's idea and 0% Jay's.
Check out Leno's Twitter Feed from Yesterday. Do you see anything from him about him leaving?
Won't you think that if Leno decided to leave the Tonight Show, he would have at least sent out a Tweet?
Not a word...it's all about promoting his show for that night. The show that NBC has ripped away from him.
NBC got what they wanted. They talked Leno into falling on his sword and agree to go away quietly and hand the show off to Jimmy Fallon.
But, you know inside it is killing Leno to give up his one true love.
It was never about the money for Leno. Other than his very fancy car collection, Leno is still just the regular guy he always was growing up in Boston.
He buys the cars, because he can....but it has never been about the money.
In that lunch I had with him, he said he loves making people laugh. You could tell that he meant it. I'm betting that there were some comedy clubs back in the day that Leno would have played for free. Just as long as he had a good crowd and could make them laugh.
What's not funny is that NBC is pushing Leno out after 22 years. In most of that time Leno was on top of the ratings.
When NBC told Leno he had to make budget cuts at his show, Leno himself cut his own pay. Like we said it was never about the money.
NBC CEO Steve Burke was quoted as saying “We are purposefully making this change when Jay is #1, just as Jay replaced Johnny Carson when he was #1."
So, Burke says right there in that quote that this wasn't Jay's idea, but NBC's. Even though they are trying to play it the other way around.
How can a network that finished 5th in the last ratings book kick out the guy that has one of the few number 1 shows on the network?
It's that thinking and those actions that show why NBC is doing so awful in the ratings.
I remember when our lunch was over, I got back in my news car and headed back to the station. Leno headed back across the street to the comedy club he was going to play that night. It was hours before his showtime, but he still wanted to make sure everything was right at the club.
Jay Leno deserves the chance to leave NBC when it really is his decision to go.
The only person that should be pushed out at NBC is Steve Burke. Unfortunately that doesn't look like it's going to happen anytime soon.