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Leno Invites O'Brien to His Farewell, Before Not Actually Leaving

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In a conference call with reporters today, Jay Leno announced that his final on-air guest on The Tonight Show will be his replacement, Conan O’Brien. Leno will welcome O’Brien to the show he will begin hosting June 1—a debut that, of course, has totally been overshadowed by Jay Leno’s staying on to do a 10 p.m. E.T. show starting in the fall. NBC may be giving Jay the limelight, having him compete with Conan for bookings, and generally relegating what should be the pinnacle of O’Brien’s career to an afterthought—but at least Conan will get a chance to congratulate Jay for it! 

Seriously, Jay had praise for O’Brien on the call, and said he considered him a friend. And the move suggests, if nothing else, that NBC recognizes it still has an interest in keeping O’Brien’s Tonight Show a viable asset. 

On the call, by the way, I asked Leno about Ben Silverman’s assurance to advertisers, at the NBC infronts earlier this month, that Jay was so “advertiser friendly” that he was willing to do in-show commercials. Was he? “Ben is very enthusiastic,” Leno said. “If it were up to Ben, I would be out there wearing a McDonald’s hat.” So the answer is…? “We’ll look at it and we’ll see. But I’m pretty much an advertiser-friendly guy … It’s one of those things that’s open to discussion. It’s somewhere between Ben’s enthusiasm and ‘no.'”