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Jay Leno tells '60 Minutes' he's done with late night

Jay Leno talks about his relationship with his soon-to-be-former employer, NBC, with
Jay Leno talks about his relationship with his soon-to-be-former employer, NBC, with "60 Minutes."
60 Minutes (via YouTube)

Jay Leno is retiring from late night after leaving "The Tonight Show." Really this time, according to a new interview he gave to "60 Minutes," despite saying previously that he was considering his options and speculation that he could jump to another network.

Leno says in the interview that he can't recreate the "Tonight Show" with a new show, the Associated Press reports, so he'll be leaving late night to successor Jimmy Fallon.

He tried once before. Leno faced a backlash after staying on the NBC airwaves after he left "The Tonight Show" in 2009 with "The Jay Leno Show," before returning to "Tonight" at 11:35 p.m. and ousting his attempted successor, Conan O'Brien.

Leno tells "60 Minutes" that he was "blindsided" by being told by NBC that he was out and would be replaced by O'Brien, and that it felt like having a girlfriend break up with him.

Leno also didn't like his role in the way the situation played out to the public as the villain.

"I didn't quite understand that, but I never chose to answer any of those things or make fun of any other people involved," Leno said. "It's not my way."

Leno praised incoming host Fallon, who's been hosting NBC later night show "Late Night" for the last five years.

"[Jimmy's] probably more like a young Johnny [Carson] than almost anybody since. And he's really good. So, you go with the new guy. Makes perfect sense for me," Leno said.

Not that he's excited to go.

"It's not my decision. And I think I probably would have stayed if we didn't have an extremely qualified young guy ready to jump in. Sure, I probably would have stayed a little longer," Leno said. He also tells "60 Minutes" that "Well, it's always nice to keep working," the AP reports. Leno indicated that NBC had handled this transition better than the Leno/O'Brien turnaround.

Leno talked about that point — wanting to keep working — on a recent episode of Jerry Seinfeld's Web series "Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee." Leno will be giving Fallon an in-person endorsement to Fallon in an interview Monday on NBC morning show "Today" with both men.

Leno gave another interview to "60 Minutes" when he began the "Tonight Show" way back in 1993, which came 16 years after his first appearance on the program. It shows how much Leno's image has changed over the years — while he's seen as a sign of the establishment at this point, the piece mentions how he was told he was too menacing and ethnic to get his own show, though he'd also already come under fire for his comedy losing some of its edge when he stepped into the great Carson's seat.

According to CBS, the new "60 Minutes" interview also includes an interview with Leno's wife Mavis — just like in that old interview — who he frequently references on the show, and also a visit to his hometown of Andover, Massachusetts.

Leno's last show is Feb. 6 and includes Billy Crystal. It's also the show's last in Burbank — Fallon's moving the show with him to New York City, premiering Feb. 17 with guests Will Smith and U2.

In the ripple of late night movements, Fallon's taking over for Leno, SNL "Weekend Update" anchor Seth Meyers is taking over for Fallon and SNL head writer Colin Jost is taking over for Seth Meyers, co-anchoring with Cecily Strong.