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Leno Takes Over as Host of ‘The Tonight Show’

May 25, 1992

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ For Jay Leno, the ″Tonight Show″ honeymoon is over.

Leno, 42, has been the guest host on the talk show for five years. He moves into Johnny Carson’s spot full-time on Monday.

Leno claims not to be nervous. He says it’s simply ″the next step.″

″It’s like living with a girl for four or five years and deciding to get married,″ Leno said recently. ″It’s no big deal to you, but your relatives slap their foreheads and say, ’Thank God, it’s legitimate.‴

In fact, Leno’s family is taking it all in stride.

″We aren’t planning to get together or anything,″ said Patrick Leno, the comedian’s older brother. He said he and his parents would watch the show at home in Andover, Mass.

No champagne. No reception. Leno’s detractors suggest a prenuptial agreement might be in order.

″Leno is in one of the toughest spots in the world - following the man who was the best,″ said comedian Bob Newhart, a frequent ″The Tonight Show″ guest during Carson’s reign.

Carson, 66, bid farewell after 30 years. Friday’s final show was watched by 55 million people, besting his record of 45 million in 1969 when singer Tiny Tim married Miss Vicki on the air.

The show will have a new look under Leno. There will be a new set, a new theme song and a new band headed by jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis. But the show’s format will remain essentially the same.

″We’ll obviously have a monologue,″ Leno said. ″There’ll be a lot of comedy bits. We’ll still have music.″

″I do believe Jay Leno will take it from the critics because he’s new,″ said comedian Steve Allen, who hosted ″The Tonight Show″ from 1954 to 1957. Jack Paar was the show’s second host.

If actual vows were to be exchanged, the part where the minister asks if anyone objects would have elicited some unusual responses.

″He can’t replace Johnny,″ talk show host Arsenio Hall told the magazine Entertainment Weekly. ″No one will ever reign like he reigned. And I think it’s an insult to his legacy to say Jay is replacing him.″

Guests scheduled for Leno’s first week include Billy Crystal, Tom Cruise, Sigourney Weaver and Mel Gibson.

Tiny Tim, whose career took off after his 1969 marriage on the show, said he doubts Leno will succeed.

″I wish him the best of luck. I hope I have a crate of eggs in my face, but I don’t think he has the viewing charisma,″ he said. ″If he makes it big, may he have all the blessings in the world.″

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