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Leno: 2nd ‘Tonight exit’ is quits for late-night


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Leno’s favorite Q&A is that those queried about how Mount Rushmore was formed often reply, "erosion." His head-shaking reaction: "The wind and rain not only picked four presidents, it picked four of our greatest presidents!"

Was he the most daring, most innovative, most surprising force in late-night? His critics and even clear-eyed admirers said no, and Leno doesn’t argue with them — but that’s not what counts, he adds: "Whether you like the host or not, you cannot say it’s not been a success. A football team might not have the most sophisticated players but can win the Super Bowl."

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Leno cannot be called unsophisticated but he is determinedly un-show biz. He makes note of his modest New England upbringing, the high school friends he remains close to, his three-decade marriage to wife, Mavis, and the many "Tonight" staffers who remained loyal throughout his tenure.

Hollywood has been a place to get to tell jokes to a big audience, reap millions of dollars to be carefully saved and keep a safe distance from the circus.

"When this is over, I don’t get to my table at (posh restaurant) Morton’s and" — here, he feigns dismay as he mimics a maître d’ — ‘Sorry, Mr. Leno, this is Mr. Fallon’s table.’"

Instead, the day after Leno steps off the "Tonight" stage, the one designed for him, he will travel to Florida for a handful of club dates, his wife at his side. And, he said, he’ll be content with that.

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AP Television Writer Frazier Moore in New York contributed to this report.

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Lynn Elber is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. She can be reached at lelber(at)ap.org and on Twitter(at)lynnelber.


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