This late-night series on Creator/{{NBC}} is part VarietyShow and part celebrity TalkShow. Creator/SteveAllen was the first host, starting in 1954; Ernie Kovacs had Monday and Tuesday nights for the final (1956-57) season due to Allen's [[Series/TheSteveAllenShow Sunday-night show]] on the same network.

In January 1957, both Allen and Kovacs were ousted and the show became ''Tonight! America After Dark'', a serious news program with Jack Lescoulie; he was booted out in June to ''Today'' and replaced for the last month by Al "Jazzbo" Collins. Allen went on to host his own talk shows until 1971.

In July 1957, Jack Paar became the full-time ''Tonight Show'' host, but he walked off in February 1960 after NBC censors took offense at one of his jokes. Paar returned to the show within a month. From April-September 1962, ''The Tonight Show'' had a series of part-time hosts, including Groucho Marx, and an orchestra led by Skitch Henderson. ''The Jack Paar Program'' premiered around that time and lasted three years.

Johnny Carson made a career of ''The Tonight Show'', acting as host from 1962-92. During that time, Carson created many memorable characters, including Art Fern, Floyd R. Turbo, and Carnac the Magnificent, while bringing fame to his announcer Ed [=McMahon=] and his bandleader Skitch Henderson. Henderson was later replaced by Carl "Doc" Severinsen.

After Carson left the series, Jay Leno took over as host. Thus began the "talk show wars" of 1993; it had been expected that DavidLetterman, who hosted the lead-out show ''LateNight with...'' since the early 1980s, would get the gig. When that didn't happen, [=CBS=] hired him as a direct competitor, ''The Late Show With David Letterman'', launched in 1993. While Letterman initially was the stronger ratings draw, Leno eventually overtook him. ''The Tonight Show'' and ''The Late Show'' remain fierce competitors. (The controversy would be dramatized in the 1996 movie ''The Late Shift''.

Leno's format wouldn't settle for a few months, until Kevin Eubanks signed on as bandleader. Jay Leno's most enduring skits are "Headlines", a bit [[FollowTheLeader previously used by Letterman]] (under the moniker "Small Town News") on the original ''Late Night'' in the 1980s; "Jaywalking", a [[VoxPops man-on-the-street]] skit with real people that highlights American stupidity (on [[UsefulNotes/LosAngeles Hollywood Boulevard]]; talk about playing with loaded dice). He also did film clips with {{Special Effects Failure}}s with great frequency. He played a few characters, most notably Iron Jay (a dumb weightlifter), Mr. Brain (a condescending smart-aleck), and Beyondo (a "ghost" whose punchline-"first" schtick was almost identical to Carson's Carnac).

In 2004, Leno signed a contract to continue the show until 2009 and [=Conan O'Brien=] signed up to replace him when he left...but when the time grew near, Leno's ratings were still strong. NBC decided it didn't want to risk him going to another network like Letterman, so they [[KickedUpstairs kicked Leno upstairs]] to make room for Creator/ConanOBrien, who had hosted ''LateNight'' since 1993. They gave Leno a similar show (''The Jay Leno Show'') at [[PrimeTime 10:00 PM]] five nights a week starting that Fall, the "five nights a week" part being a first-ever for American network prime time. For the first time, there was no "interregnum" of temporary hosts (as in 1957 and 1962) or reruns (as in 1992): Leno's last show was May 29, 2009 (a Friday) and O'Brien's first was the following Monday, June 1.

However, both Conan and Leno performed well beneath the norm for their timeslots. The network itself didn't care, but affiliates lost a major chunk of ad revenue and some hinted that they weren't going to endure it for much longer -- and thus, the "talk show wars" entered its second round.

NBC attempted to fix this by moving Leno's show to ''The Tonight Show''[='s=] time slot and bumping O'Brien's critically-acclaimed but ratings-poor run back a half-hour to 12:05 AM. This wasn't received well. Leno was upset about it, as he had agreed to the arrangement by insisting the network promise both his and O'Brien's shows a full year before making any further decisions; the network agreed, [[ScrewedByTheNetwork but within less than four months they reneged]]. [[http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/12/conan-obrien-says-he-wont-do-tonight-show-following-leno/ O'Brien threatened to quit]], Leno had as well, and both routinely savaged NBC in their nightly opening monologues.

On January 15, 2010 Conan, tired of the whole fiasco, [[http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/theampersand/archive/2010/01/15/nbc-agrees-to-pay-conan-30-million-to-leave-reports.aspx settled on a $30M payout from NBC]] (later upped to $45M to accommodate his staff) to leave ''The Tonight Show''. O'Brien came out of the debacle with most of the public and TV writers on his side, Leno returned to ''Tonight'' and continued to host until February 2014, where he was replaced with Jimmy Fallon of ''Series/SaturdayNightLive'' fame.
And in all this history, there was the regular who didn't expect to be one Lillian Miller (aka "Miss Miller") was an audience member on so many episodes of the Allen/Kovacs, Parr, and Carson versions that she was forced to join AFTRA. She also frequented {{Game Show}}s (including ''MatchGame'' and ''Series/WhatsMyLine''), ''The MervGriffin Show'', ''Series/TheCarolBurnettShow'', and even appeared on ''The Jack Paar Program'' in November 1962 as a guest alongside Liberace and [[MuhammadAli Cassius Clay]].
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!!Steve Allen's incarnation (1954-57) provides examples of:
* [[ImpossiblyCoolClothes Suit Of Awesome]]: In one episode Allen sat in a giant teacup in warm water with 200 lemon wedges while wearing a Suit of Teabags. Years later, this stunt would inspire DavidLetterman to wear Suits of Alka-Seltzer, Rice Krispies, and Velcro at various times during ''Late Night''.

!!''Tonight! America After Dark'' (1957) provides examples of:
* ReTool: It was more of a news show than an entertainment program.

!!Jack Paar's incarnation (1957-62) provides examples of:
* Music/TheBeatles: Paar showed clips of fans reacting to the Fab Four during the very early days of Beatlemania, mainly to diss the clothing, manners, and hairlength of the teenagers.
* NotMakingThisUpDisclaimer: When starting a joke about a bizarre news item, Jack would often employ the phrase "I kid you not." It got to be a sort of CatchPhrase of his, to the point where Paar used it as the title of his autobiography.
* PreciousPuppies: On his last night, after saying his FinalSpeech, Paar ended the show by calling to his dog sitting in the audience area. "Come on, Lika. We're going home."
* SmokingIsCool: Back in the day where smoking was not only the norm, it was expected of celebrity guests. Paar and many (not all) of his celebrity guests regularly caused the set to be fogged over with smoke, thanks to five (or more) smoking guests on the set at any one time.
* TenMinuteRetirement: Although in this case, he had a reason. Namely...
* WriterRevolt: Jack walked off during the February 11, 1960 show after discovering that NBC censored a joke the previous night regarding a lady looking for the "water closet" who was directed to a wedding chapel due to her only using the initials "W.C." (the network cut into a news report over the joke). His sidekick, Hugh Downs, took over for the remainder of that telecast. Led to a FunnyMoment when Parr returned a few weeks later with the words "...Now as I was saying..."

!!Johnny Carson's incarnation (1962-92) provides examples of:
* AddedAlliterativeAppeal: One of the most famous sketches on the show involved Sgt. Joe Friday (Jack Webb) asking Johnny Carson about his stolen "clappers". Among the words that started with "C" (or used the "C" sound) used in the sketch: Clappers, caper, copper, closet, Claude Cooper, copped, Cleveland, clean, kleptomaniac, cleaning woman, Clara Clifford, clobber.
* AluminumChristmasTrees: Yes kids, the show used to be an hour and a half long. The [[ChristmasEpisode Christmas 1979]] episode recently released on YouTube by Carson Productions featured a very funny opening segment of Johnny and Ed looking at popular toys of the time which lasted three segments and lasted about 26 minutes.
* BaaBomb: "Sis boom bah!"
* BewareTheNiceOnes: Carson was forever affable on-stage but had a legendary temper in his private life.
** Music/{{Madonna}} and Creator/SeanPenn got married right next to his house; legend has it he was so annoyed by paparazzi helicopters, he went out and spelled '''[[PrecisionFStrike FUCK OFF]]''' on his front lawn with rocks.
** After Charlie Callas tried to get a cheap laugh by deliberately shoving Carson, he retaliated by banning him from ever appearing on the show again...'''on-air''', after which he left Callas to sit there pleading pathetically for another chance for the rest of the show.
** Close friend and "permanent guest host" Joan Rivers accepted a talk show gig on FOX (''The Late Show'') without first asking Carson's permission; when she subsequently called to apologize, he hung up on her without a word and never spoke to her again for the rest of his life.
* BiggerThanJesus: In one of the interviews with Charles Grodin, Grodin [[CallBack addressed something Carson said in an earlier interview]], when he said that $18.95 isn't too much for a book if you're Mother Teresa. Grodin found that "insulting", but Carson explained that Grodin isn't as famous as Teresa. Grodin asked if Carson considers himself as famous as Teresa. Carson's reply? "Of course not!... (reconsiders) I ''might'' be."
--> '''Carson''': I don't do as much good work as she does...\\
'''Grodin''': You certainly don't.
* TheBusCameBack: Jack Paar was invited back many times.
-->'''Carson''': Why did you give up hosting ''The Tonight Show''? You could have been here a lot longer...you could have been here today. Why did you give it up?\\
'''Paar''': Well, you needed the work...
* CallBack: Charles Grodin would often bring up things Johnny said in a previous interview. In some cases, this could be a ''year'' beforehand.
* CallingTheOldManOut: Charles Grodin frequently accused Carson of not caring about the questions he asked, and often refused to answer them without a lot of goading.
--> '''Carson''': In what way were you different [from earlier in your life]?\\
'''Grodin''': ...Do you ''care'' what way I was different?\\
'''Carson''': Not a whit. (audience laughs) Of course I do! We do this every time you come out here!\\
'''Grodin''': Well you don't care how I was different!\\
'''Carson''': Of ''course'' I do.\\
'''Grodin''': You don't care how I wrote the book, you don't care what's in the book, you don't care that I'm referred to as a "zen master" in a major literary review of this book, that it says it has echoes of James Thurber, Andy Rooney, that the stores are already buying it more, it's not even been officially published, you don't care about all that plug stuff. It's true.\\
'''Carson''': ...Gee.\\
'''Grodin''': In fact, it offends you, it upsets you, it irritates you. You resent it, you resent it.
* CasanovaWannabe: Art Fern.
* CatchPhrase: ''"Heeeeeeeeeerrrrreeee's JOHNNY!"''
** Carson would say "It's ____ today." The audience would reply in unison: "How ____ was it??", prompting Carson to do the punchline.
* ColbertBump: Doing stand-up on the show was a major career boost, and being called over to the couch pretty much guaranteed overnight success. More recent comedians to get the honor include Drew Carey, EllenDeGeneres, and Jeff Foxworthy.
* EditedForSyndication: In 1983, a ClipShow series called ''Carson's Comedy Classics'' was offered to local stations. Each half-hour episode consisted of two or three extended segments, usually "Mighty Carson Art Players" skits and/or segments with Carson characters such as Carnac and Aunt Blabby, plus shorter segments (i.e. commercial spoofs).
* EverythingsBetterWithMonkeys: Carson would frequently have zoology experts like Jack Hanna on, with various animals for him to interact with.
* GameShowAppearance: One Mighty Carson Art Players sketch had Carson playing President RonaldReagan as a contestant on ''FamilyFeud''.
* GroinAttack: Accidentally carried out on a wooden target by actor Ed Ames during [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGeN0QkZmmY an axe-throwing demonstration.]] The entire audience went into hysterics for over a minute, and their efforts to stop laughing were not at all aided by a circumcision joke from Johnny in its wake that ensured the segment's immortality as a high point in his career.
* HeadPet: Johnny's encounter with an undiapered pygmy marmoset is a blooper-reel favorite.
* IronicEcho: Used numerous times during any interview with Charles Grodin, for comedic effect.
* LenoDevice: UrExample, though he didn't use it nearly as much as Leno did.
* OffTheRails: Could occur with certain guests. See the Burt Reynolds / Dom [=DeLuise=] episode from the '70s for just one instance.
* OverlyLongGag: Carson's purposefully-long intro to Bill Clinton in 1988 might just be the absolute longest guest introduction in history, clocking in at about 2 1/2 minutes.
--> '''Carson''': My, uh, my first guest tonight became a media celebrity last week when he delivered the nominating speech for Michael Dukakis at the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta. Uh, Bill Clinton is a four-time governor of Arkansas. He was the nation's youngest governor when he was first elected in 1978, at the age of 32. In a recent Newsweek poll, he was voted one of the five most effective governors in the country. ({{Beat}}) He also oversaw Arkansas's once-depressed state economy... (audience begins to laugh) rebound to prosperity through his programs of welfare reform, public health plans, and consumer protection, including a tight rein on utility rates. From his capitol office building in Little Rock, Governor Clinton has helped remold his state into a competitive player in economic business and industry, while maintaining his state's traditional homestead heritage and rugged natural beauty. Marvelous to have him on the show, but that's just ''part'' of the Bill Clinton story. His family and friends remember Bill as an idealistic and determined young man who earned his Bachelor's Degree from Georgetown University, later graduating from Yale Law School. Like fellow Democrat, New Jersey Senator Bradley, who shares the first name "Bill", Governor Clinton expanded his horizons as a Rhodes Scholar, studying at England's renowned Oxford University. (page two...) He returned to America... (audience laughs) with a renewed fervor, and while still a law student, ran George [=McGovern=]'s 1972 presidential campaign in Texas. Two years later, he lost the congressional race, but won widespread public admiration, and was easily elected Attorney General at 29, two years after that. And it's great to have him here. He's also the past chairman... (audience laughs) of the education committees of the state, and author of the comprehensive report on the importance of leadership in education reform. It gives me great pleasure to welcome a man who currently serves as the Vice Chairman of the Democratic Governor's Association, and who has shown America that Arkansas is more than just trees and Hot Springs National Park. (page three...) ''Much'' more. There's Blanchard Springs Caverns... (audience laughs) There's the country's only active diamond mine. Arkansas is the birthplace of cosmopolitan publisher Helen Gurley Brown, singers Glen Campbell and Johnny Cash, and the late actor Alan Ladd, best known for his performance in the Academy Award winning film, ''Film/{{Shane}}''.\\
(two audience members start chanting "We want Bill!")\\
'''Carson''': Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton, a man who Hernando De Soto might have had in mind when he discovered this territory called Arkansas back in 1541. Of course, back then it was owned by France, then Spain, then France again. Then it was sold as part of the now-famous Louisiana Purchase, which brings us full-circle to my first guest. Bill Clinton, a man who loves his state, from its eastern delta to its southern lowland forests, all the way up to its western highlands, which includes, of course, the Ozark Plateau. And in conclusion... (audience cheers) Here's a man who needs no introduction, the honorable Bill Clinton of Arkansas!
* PreciousPuppies: During the early years while the show was broadcast live, Ed [=McMahon=] would do in studio advertisements for Alpo dog food, which included an eager dog waiting to eat the stuff. One night the dog ignored the food and walked offstage, leaving Johnny to quickly fill in, sitting up for Ed in one famous blooper.
* ProductPlacement: One skit involved Carson as Hamlet, reciting the famous AlasPoorYorick monologue, except inserting product plugs after certain words. Among the items Hamlet plugged included AAMCO, Mentholatum deep heating rub, Preparation H, and American Express.
* SamusIsAGirl: One of the most famous skits involved Johnny pretending to be a cowboy but revealing that he was a woman. Only catch is, when he removed his hat, [[ThrowItIn he accidentally removed his wig with it, essentially derailing the skit and ending it early ("Screw it, let's go!")]].
* {{Sidekick}}: Ed [=McMahon=].
* SignatureLaugh: [=McMahon=]'s deep belly-laugh. Hi-ho!
* SmokingIsCool: Many of Carson's celebrity guests smoked, and unashamedly lit up on the set. There were frequent instances where five or more people on the set (Carson and [=McMahon=] included) had lighted cigarettes in hand at any one time, with ashtrays provided. By the early 1980s, with the habit becoming less socially acceptable and health risks becoming better known, Carson and [=McMahon=] stopped smoking on the set; [=McMahon=] ultimately quit, while Carson continued his pack-plus-a-day habit for most of the rest of his life, ultimately dying in 2005 of respiratory failure brought on by emphysema.
* SpinOff: Of sorts. In July of 2013 Turner Classic Movies aired a five-part series hosted by Conan O'Brian called ''Carson on TMC''; each episode consisting of five classic Carson ''Tonight Show'' intervews with stars such as George Burns, Liz Taylor, and Henry Fonda.
* StealthInsult: Done ''repeatedly'' in any interview with Charles Grodin. Of course, this supposed bitterness was all part of the act. Example: When Carson was accused of not reading Grodin's latest book:
--> '''Carson''': I've read the book cover to cover.
--> '''Grodin''': You have?
--> '''Carson''': Yes I have.
--> '''Grodin''': And?
--> '''Carson''': ...It's a very long book.
* {{Taps}}: The band plays Taps whenever an attempted comic bit dies.
* TechnologyMarchesOn: In July of 2013 it was announced that Johnny Carson ''Tonight Show'' interviews would be available on iTunes.
* VitriolicBestBuds: Johnny Carson and Charles Grodin.
* WhosOnFirst: A variant occurs in a skit where Carson played Ronald Reagan being briefed on his day's activities by his aide. One of the most memorable exchanges was Reagan reviewing his plans to go swimming with James G. Watt at the YMCA.
-->'''Carson''': Who?\\
'''Aide''': Watt.\\
'''Carson''': Where?\\
'''Aide''': Y.

!!Both (1992-2009, 2010-2014) of Jay Leno's incarnations provide examples of:
* BreadEggsBreadedEggs: One of the Headlines involved a person selling "cabbits": Rabbits and cats mixed. Leno found this quite humorous, as he interpreted it as an animal that doesn't exist in real life instead of what the author likely intended, rabbits and cats sold together.
--> '''Leno''': What, does it sleep for 23 hours and mate for an hour?!
* CatchPhrase:
** During "Headlines": "Kev, what do I love?" "Stupid criminals."
*** Alternatively: "Kev, what do I hate?" "Dressing up animals."
* CocaPepsiInc: One recurring segment involves showing products of hypothetical mergers between companies to make humorous product names.
* CoolCar: Leno owns a ''warehouse full'' of them, and they turn up on the show occasionally.
* {{Corpsing}}: Before reading one of the "Headlines" (a "for sale" ad selling "fudge-packing machines"), Leno cracked a smile, and Kevin asked what was so funny. Leno asked if the audience was sure they wanted this one, and when they cheered, he proclaimed that he was just going to read it, and wasn't going to comment or smirk. But then he glanced at it again and smirked. Cue Kevin: "You're smirkin' already! You're smirkin' before you even say it!"
* DeadpanSnarker
* DontExplainTheJoke: One of the "Headlines" showed an Amish buggy with the caption reminding people not to take the Amish's picture. After a tepid response, Leno quipped, "You see, they took their picture. I should've explained it more clearly."
* FinalSpeech:
-->"Okay... boy, this is the hard part. I want to thank you, the audience. You folks have been just... incredibly loyal... ''[tears up]'' This is tricky. ''[laughs]'' Ah... we wouldn't be on the air without you people. Secondly, this has been the greatest 22 years of my life. I tell you. ''[applause]'' I am... the luckiest guy in the world. I got to meet presidents, astronauts, movie stars... it's just been incredible. I got to work with lighting people who made me look better than I really am, I got to work with audio people who made me sound better than I really do, and I got to work with producers and writers, and just all kinds of talented people who made me look a lot smarter than I really am. [[TheWoobie I'll tell you something... the first year of this show, I lost my mom. Second year I lost my dad. Then my brother died. And, uh... after that, I was pretty much out of family.]] And the folks here became my family. Consequently, when they went through rough times, I tried to be there for them. The last time we left this show, you might remember, we had the 64 children that were born among all our staffers that married. That was a great moment. And when people say to me, 'Hey, why didn't you go to ABC? Why didn't you go to Fox? Why didn't you go...?' I didn't know anybody over there. These are the only people I've ever known. I'm also proud to say this is a union show, and I have never worked... ''[applause]'' ...I have never worked with a more professional group of people in my life. They get paid good money, and they do a good job. And when the guys and women on this show would show me the new car they bought, or their house up the street here in Burbank, the one the guys got... I felt I played a bigger role in their success than they played in mine. And that was just a great feeling. And I'm really excited for Jimmy Fallon. You know, it's fun to kinda be the old guy, sit back here and see where the next generation takes this great institution, and it really is... it's been a great institution for 60 years. I am so glad I got to be a part of it. But it really is time to go, hand it off to the next guy. It really is. And in closing, I want to quote Johnny Carson, who was the greatest guy to ever do this job, and he said 'I bid you all a heartfelt goodnight.' Now... [[MoodWhiplash now that I've brought the room down...]] hey [[Music/GarthBrooks Garth]], you got anything to liven this party up? Give it a shot! Garth Brooks!"
* JuxtapositionGag: Many clippings sent to the "Headlines" segment involve amusing accidental juxtapositions. It can be two ads with incompatible content placed next to each other, or two ads with pictures placed together to create improbable anatomy. Other times, the headline of one article is next to a picture from a different news story altogether, with unfortunate implications. (For example, a story of murder victims' bodies being recovered from a yard was placed next to a photo of then-President RonaldReagan and wife Nancy with shovels, as they cheerfully broke ground on his presidential library.)
** Parodied on ''TheSimpsons'', where Marge cuts out this article to send in: "Ketchup Truck Crashes into Hot Dog Stand - 30 Dead."
* LanternJawOfJustice: Taken UpToEleven in the "Iron Jay" skits.
* LenoDevice: TropeNamer.
* LoopholeAbuse: In 2005, Leno was called to testify for the defense in the Music/MichaelJackson child molestation trial, as he was familiar with the accuser and his family. This didn't keep him from his regular gig, but he was legally unable to joke about anything related to it during his nightly monologues. The solution was to have other comedians (Roseanne Barr, Drew Carey, etc.) take over for a chunk of said monologues and tell all the Michael Jackson jokes they pleased.
* OnceAnEpisode: Starting around 2007, Leno would use part of his monologue to tell "The economy is bad!" jokes, one after another. When he would finish telling a joke, the band would play a brief snippet of "Hooray For Hollywood".
* ThePeteBest: Branford Marsalis was the bandleader before Kevin Eubanks.
* {{Pun}}: During one "Headlines":
--> '''Leno''': You know how Canada got its name, by the way?\\
'''Kevin''': How's that?\\
'''Leno''': It went C, ''eh'', N, ''eh'', D... it's an old joke.
* TheRival: DavidLetterman.
-->"He's only saying that because I'm here."
* RunningGag
* SongParody: Billy Crystal sang a "send off" medley to Leno during the last week of the original ''Tonight Show'' run, which included parodies of such song as "[[Theatre/TheSoundOfMusic These Are a Few of My Favorite Things]]" and "[[Series/TheJeffersons Movin' On Up]]".
** He also sang a parody (along with surprise guests) for Leno's final show on 2/6/14. This one parodied just one song: "[[Film/TheSoundOfMusic So Long, Farewell"]].
* {{Squick}}: Invoked. One Headline involved using cremated ashes being used to paint portraits for a widower. The audience groaned more than they laughed, which led to this:
--> '''Leno''': Isn't that horrible?\\
'''Kevin''': ...Yes.\\
'''Leno''': Too bad it's not FUNNY. (audience laughs)
* TooMuchInformation: One of the Headlines involved putting plastic molds on your face. When the image in the clipping looked too much like UncannyValley to Leno, he snarked, "It's like having sex with a cyborg!"
--> '''Kevin Eubanks''': ...You've had sex with a cyborg, Jay??\\
'''Jay Leno''': (straightens tie) In my single days.
* UnwittingInstigatorOfDoom: The primetime failure of ''The Jay Leno Show'' was responsible for the fiasco by bringing down the ratings for the local 11:00 PM newscasts and Conan's ''Tonight''.
* VitriolicBestBuds: Jay Leno and Terry Bradshaw
* VoxPops: "Jaywalking".
* WhatCouldHaveBeen: Originally, Leno's post-''Tonight'' project was to have been an American ''TopGear''. Leno actually turned down this idea when it was initially proposed to him, realizing that what made ''Top Gear'' work was its non-commercial carriage on TheBBC...and an NBC version would be filled with ProductPlacement and ExecutiveMeddling. There was also some concern from BBC America that an American version would cannibalize ratings of the original on BBC America, where it's very popular. An American version ''did'' eventually premiere on the History Channel.
** ''The Tonight Show Starring David Letterman'' could well have been the case, but Letterman assumed he'd be the successor, as did Carson. Leno (or his manager, Helen Kushnick; nobody's actually really sure) actively but quietly campaigned to get the job from the people that actually made the decision, however, so he got it and Letterman went to CBS.

!!Creator/ConanOBrien's incarnation (2009-10) provides examples of:
* AccidentalMisnaming: Conan told a story about how a supposed fan recognized him on the street and said, "It's Coen O'Riley from the radio!"
* {{Beat}}: In one of the WilliamShatner interviews, Conan asked Shatner how his Thanksgiving was. Shatner responded that it was awful, because it was so messy. Then he paused, and when he began talking again, Conan interrupted him:
-->'''Conan''': I never know what's going to happen when you come out here. I asked you a question and you took, I think, a 45-second pause.
* BenevolentBoss: Reportedly, the exit negotiations were held up by Conan's insistence that NBC shell out severance money for his staff. Conan reportedly paid out of pocket to provide for staff/crew members who weren't covered by the NBC contract.
* BitingTheHandHumor: The last two weeks of Conan's ''Tonight'' [[HilarityEnsues were downright vicious]].
-->"NBC announced that they expect to lose $200 Million on the Winter Olympics next month. Now, folks, is it just me...or is that story ''hilarious''?"
* BrokenRecord / ManipulativeEditing: One "Conan on the Aisle" sketch had Conan criticizing ''Film/PublicEnemies'' for being too repetitive, which padded the running time. A clip from the film was shown where an announcement was made to look to your left and then to your right to see if you spot John Dillinger. In the actual film, the audience only did this once, but as presented in this segment, they were instructed to look to their left and right ''several'' times.
* ButtMonkey: On '''every single talk show''', when the NBC fiasco was discussed, Carson Daly (who hosts ''Last Call'' at 1:30 in the morning, after all the major talk shows are done) was known as "that poor guy".
** Daly survived when O'Brien decided to leave NBC rather than have ''Tonight'' start a half-hour later.
* CatchPhrase: "In the Year 3000" always began with William Shatner saying: "And so we take a cosmic ride into that new millennium; that far off reality that is the year 3000. It's the future, man."
* CoolCar / TheAllegedCar: Conan's 1992 Ford Taurus SHO played both roles as needed, seemingly varying based on whether or not he washed it for that particular star turn.
* DoesThisRemindYouOfAnything: The ''VideoGame/SuperMarioBros3'' curtain, which Conan even [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_31INFH6bY mentioned]] after someone posted the original picture.
** Conan hires a [[Film/{{Avatar}} Na'vi]] assistant along with his vampire assistant. The vampire is unhappy, and Conan suggests he can start work later and share the role. The vampire ends up running out into the sunlight rather than share the job.
* ExecutiveMeddling: The entire debacle that NBC created by trying to reshuffle their schedule by moving The Jay Leno Show from an hour at 10 to a half hour at 11:30 and moving ''Tonight'' and ''Late Night'' back half an hour. It was unclear if ''Last Call'' would remain on the air.
* FailingATaxi: Part of the gag that "introduced" Conan at the start of his first show. Unable to catch a cab in [[BigApplesauce Manhattan]], he ran...all the way to Hollywood. [[FunnyMoment Then he realized he forgot his keys back in New York, so he burst into the studio with a bulldozer.]]
* [[FandomRivalry/{{Sports}} Fandom Rivalry: Sports]]: Invoked. When Conan (jokingly) fired one of the band members for watching the baseball game during the show, he said he could do that... because he's a Red Sox fan. Cue a few audience members good-naturedly booing, which Conan quickly called attention to.
--> '''Conan''': Yay boo, yay boo, it's lots of fun to do. If you like it, holler "yay", and if you don't, you holler "boo". (audience laughs) My apologies to ''everyone''.
* FinalSpeech:
-->"Before we end this rodeo, a few things need to be said. There has been a lot of speculation in the press about what I legally can and can't say about NBC. To set the record straight, tonight I am allowed to say anything I want. And what I want to say is this: between my time at ''SaturdayNightLive'', the ''LateNight'' show, and my brief run here on ''The Tonight Show'', I have worked with NBC for over 20 years. Yes, we have our differences right now and yes, we're going to go our separate ways. But this company has been my home for most of my adult life. I am enormously proud of the work we have done together, and I want to thank NBC for making it all possible. Walking away from ''The Tonight Show'' is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Making this choice has been enormously difficult. This is the best job in the world, I absolutely love doing it, and I have the best staff and crew in the history of the medium. But despite this sense of loss, I really feel this should be a happy moment. Every comedian dreams of hosting ''The Tonight Show'' and, for seven months, I got to. I did it my way, with people I love, and I do not regret a second. I've had more good fortune than anyone I know and if our next gig is doing a show in a 7-Eleven parking lot, we'll find a way to make it fun. And finally, I have to say something to our fans. The massive outpouring of support and passion from so many people has been overwhelming. The rallies, the signs, all the goofy, outrageous creativity on the internet, and the fact that people have traveled long distances and camped out all night in the pouring rain to be in our audience, made a sad situation joyous and inspirational. To all the people watching, I can never thank you enough for your kindness to me and I'll think about it for the rest of my life. All I ask of you is one thing: please don't be cynical. I hate cynicism it's my least-favorite quality and it doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen. As proof, let's make an amazing thing happen right now. Here to close out our show, are a few good friends, led by Mr. Will Ferrell!"
* FlippingTheBird: William Shatner gave Conan the finger during one of his interviews.
* FullBodyDisguise: One of the first sketches on the show involved Conan disguising himself as a focus group leader who showed clips of ''LateNight'' to older viewers to see what they said about him. Among the comments about Conan: He's not funny, he makes a fool of himself, is probably mentally unstable, and would only appeal to porn addicts.
* FunnyBackgroundEvent: In the first episode of 2010, Conan asked La Bamba what his New Year's resolution would be. Check out Scott Healy behind La Bamba; he's desperately trying not to crack up.
* GeorgeJetsonJobSecurity: During one of the "In the Year 3000" skits, La Bamba was unprepared for the robe that lowered from the ceiling and ducked out of the way just before it hit his head. After he got the robe on and everyone laughed, Conan (kidding, of course) announced: "You're ''fired''. What the hell!"
** In another episode, Conan noticed that the band members were watching a baseball game during the show. Conan casually remarked to the bandleader, "Well you're fired."
* HeelRealization: In one of the "Andy'll Try It" skits, Andy was supposed to drink Tofurkey and Gravy Soda, but refused and made La Bamba try it instead. La Bamba only poured a tiny bit into his cup but Conan insisted on a full glass. After La Bamba tried to drink it but spit it out after only a couple seconds, Conan immediately and repeatedly apologized for essentially forcing La Bamba to drink a lot of it.
* JudgmentOfSolomon: Conan's open letter saying ''The Tonight Show'' was an American institution and he'd rather see Leno take it back than let it be "killed" in a later timeslot.
* LaserGuidedKarma: Following the NBC-Comcast merger, Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts [[http://www.deadline.com/2010/09/cnbc-zucker-wont-make-comcast-merger/ fired Jeff Zucker]] for royally screwing up the whole Tonight Show thing, replacing him with Comcast COO Steve Burke.
* LastStand: The comedy talk show version. Conan, knowing he had about two weeks before NBC forced him off the show, started reaming out his own network (and Leno) on a nightly basis.
* MeleeATrois: What erupted among pretty much every late-night television host as a result of the ScrewedByTheNetwork situation.
** Conan O'Brien ripped on Creator/{{NBC}} and Jay Leno in his monologue, increasingly so as it became apparent he was being forced off the show and/or network in Leno's favor.
** Leno took shots at David Letterman's sex scandal.
** Letterman retaliated by spending the next week tearing into "Big Jaw" Leno and the "pinheads" at NBC.
** Jimmy Kimmel did a devastating parody of Leno on his own Creator/{{ABC}} show, then [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=joXYj2IoKXs visited Leno during a Ten At Ten segment]] to call him out.
** [[TheLateLateShow Craig Ferguson]] first said he never wanted to work for NBC, then called the network executives "lying rat bastards" among other things, some of which were bleeped out.
** [[Series/TheDailyShow Jon Stewart]] called Jeff Zucker "the Dick Cheney of television, just shooting television shows in the face".
** [[Series/TheColbertReport Stephen Colbert]] mocked NBC's dishonesty, later accusing Zucker of wanting to burn the network down for the insurance money.
** George Lopez (on his TBS show) asked "What does NBC stand for, [[FunWithAcronyms Nobody Backs Conan]]?"
** To complete the circle, Leno ended the week by swiping at Conan's ratings and hitting Letterman's sex scandal again. At one point, he said that "{{FOX}} is looking pretty good this time of year".
** NBC sent executive Dick Ebersol out to ''The New York Times'' to call Conan "gutless" and "chicken-hearted".
** HowardStern weighed in with the suggestion that Leno intended to screw Conan out of ''Tonight'' all along.
** Jimmy Fallon was stuck between siding with one of his comedy heroes (Leno) or his close friend and the guy who gave him ''Late Night'' (Conan), and tried as hard as he could to stay out of it, winning major points from Conan fans originally skeptical of him when he took over ''Late Night''. In an interview with ''Entertainment Weekly'' celebrating his first year of hosting ''Late Night'', Fallon stated that he called Conan to offer his support and tell him he would be willing to host ''Late Night'' at 1:00 AM with no resentment.
** Carson Daly, [[ButtMonkey whose show is on at a dead hour]] and always on the brink of cancellation, appeared in the crowd of Kimmel's show asking if he could have his job.
** Robin Williams sang an [[WhoseLineIsItAnyway Irish Drinking Song]], the last half of which consisted of him alternating between chants of "FUCK THE BASTARDS THAT CANCELED THE SHOW" and "FUCK THE BASTARDS, THEY CAN'T TAKE A JOKE".
* NotMakingThisUpDisclaimer: Occasionally, Conan will say this when describing a "news of the weird" story.
* ParallelPornTitles: In a Triumph sketch where he visited a dog hotel in L.A., he took over a room and ordered one of the hosts to play a bunch of dog porn videos for him: "[[Film/TurnerAndHooch Turner and Cootch]]", "[[MarleyAndMe Marley in Me]]", "[[BeverlyHillsChihuahua Beverly Hills Chi-Hoo-Hah]]", "[[Film/AirBud Rear Bud: Golden Receiver]]", "[[WesternAnimation/AnAmericanTail An American's Tail: Fievel Goes Deep]]", "[[Film/HomewardBoundTheIncredibleJourney Homeward Bound and Gagged]]", and "[[Franchise/{{Lassie}} Lassie Come Twice]]".
* PersonaNonGrata: During the long-running "feud" between Conan and Newark mayor Cory Booker, Cory banned Conan from Newark airport, to which Conan banned Cory from L.A.'s airports. Then, Cory upped the ante by banning Conan from the entire state of New Jersey.
* PreciousPuppies: Conan's ''Tonight Show'' Mini-Dose of Joy puppies dressed as cats! Complete with EarWorm theme music. They were so gosh-darn cute, Conan couldn't help but laugh. "I can't ''compete'' with this!"
* RunningGag: Several.
** Larry King's oldness (carried over from Leno's era).
** The Green Car Challenge (done on both shows).
** "Andy'll Try It!"
** Making fun of a certain South American leader's fatness (not Hugo Chavez), even though said leader isn't fat.
** [[Literature/{{Twilight}} The Moody Vampire]]. It even got to the point where TaylorLautner got into a fight with him (staged, of course).
** For a time, Conan's concussion.
** Puppies Dressed As _____.
** Sketches involving two creepy and poorly-done wax statues of [[HappyDays The Fonz]] and Tom Cruise that Conan picked up at a wax-figure warehouse.
* SideEffectsInclude: Parodied in the "Andy'll Try It" where La Bamba was forced to drink Tofurkey & Gravy Soda:
--> '''Conan''': Oh, La Bamba, it says right here: "May cause ''death''."
* TakeThat: Conan decided to exploit his loopholes by buying outrageously-expensive items, such as a Bugatti Veyron dressed up as a mouse with the master recording of the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" as its theme song; it cost NBC $1.5M. He followed up the next night by buying out the winning horse and jockey from the 2009 Kentucky Derby. The horse was wearing a mink Snuggie, and both were watching NFL Super Bowl footage restricted from the public. The cost? $4.8M on NBC's tab.
** Conan pointed out on his GrandFinale that those things were fake (except the Veyron, which was loaned from a museum) and didn't really cost millions of dollars...except for the Rolling Stones song, which really cost a lot of money.
** Later in that same episode, Creator/TomHanks came out to the tune of "Lovely Rita" by the Beatles, ostensibly a tribute to his wife Rita Wilson. According to Questlove, [[LateNight Jimmy Fallon's]] band leader and drummer for The Roots, the song cost NBC up to $500,000 in royalty fees.
* {{Unperson}}: Shortly after the end of Conan's run, NBC erased just about every single trace of him from their website even going back to before his ''Late Night'' run, including his picture from the mural at 30 Rockefeller Center (replacing it with '''Leno'''). Pretty much the '''only''' things involving Conan still on the NBC and Hulu websites are the episode of ''SaturdayNightLive'' he guest hosted in 2001, and the ''[[Series/ThirtyRock 30 Rock]]'' episode "Tracy Does Conan" in which he guests and plays an important role in the plot. Even the "''Tonight Show'' Experience" website, a grand multimedia salute to the LongRunner show's history, was yanked out of existence.
** Referenced in a mock audition/comedy skit on Conan. Andy is "auditioning" for the announcer position on the show when Conan asks about his previous work experience. After Andy stated he was the announcer on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, Conan asks if there is any video to prove this. Andy sadly replies no.
* WidgetSeries: Perhaps the only major late night show to become one, ever. That's saying something.
* WriterRevolt: Since NBC's last bits of ExecutiveMeddling, Conan devoted his monologues to openly bashing NBC, and did so right up until the GrandFinale.
** There's an element of CouldSayItBut here, as Conan had been given a gag order prohibiting him from badmouthing the network. He took to lampshading this in his last few shows.
** One of the writers did a sketch so against the network it seems Conan didn't want to say it.
** Conan deliberately ratcheted up the cost of his show, thanks to a contract loophole that allowed him to do whatever the hell he wanted on NBC's tab. Starting with a [[CoolCar Bugatti Veyron]] mouse and the 2009 Kentucky derby winner in a mink coat. Of course, most of it wasn't real... except the expensive songs and their royalties.
* {{Zeerust}}: Deliberately invoked by "In The Year 3000", a continuation of his "In The Year 2000" bits on ''Late Night''.

!! Jimmy Fallon's incarnation of the show includes:
* BigApplesauce: Production of the show returned to New York when Fallon took over.
* TheCameo: During his first episode as host, Fallon thanked all the people who'd supported him, then said, "To my buddy who said that I'd never be the host of the ''Tonight Show'' -- and you know who you are -- you owe me a hundred bucks, buddy." Then began a parade of people coming onstage and walking up to Fallon's desk to hand him a $100 bill, including Creator/RobertDeNiro, Creator/TinaFey, Joe Namath, Rudolph Giuliani (who thanked Fallon for returning the show to NYC), Music/MariahCarey, Tracy Morgan, Joan Rivers, Creator/KimKardashian, Creator/SethRogen, Creator/LindsayLohan, Creator/SarahJessicaParker, Mike Tyson (who also gives him a gift certificate for an Indian restaurant), Music/LadyGaga, and finally Creator/StephenColbert (the heir-apparent to Creator/DavidLetterman on CBS when he retires from the ''Late Show'' in 2015)...who dumped a bucket of pennies on the desk and down Fallon's shirt before shouting, "[[TheRival Welcome]] to 11:30, bitch!" in his face. (Watch the whole thing [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eN4kHmhz90U here]].)
* CatchPhrase: Fallon almost always opens his first monologue joke with: "Here's what everyone's talking about..." or a variant.
** "Hashtags" always features Fallon mentioning that this week's Twitter discussion became a "world-wide trending topic".
* {{Corpsing}}: At the start of "Thank You Notes", James Poyser plays some piano music to accompany it, and Jimmy and Steve Higgins often comment on his facial expressions as he plays. This often causes Poyser to crack a smile, even if he's trying to maintain a serious look.
* DramaticUnmask: Hashtag the Panda unmasked in a June 2014 episode. Turns out it was Creator/BenStiller all along.
* GoodNewsBadNews: "Pros and Cons".
* OnceAnEpisode: Towards the end of the opening theme song, The Roots will shout which episode number it is.
* OverlyLongGag: Whenever Fallon and co-host Steve Higgins banter back and forth during a comedy bit.
** The above-mentioned "You owe me a hundred bucks, buddy" scene.
** Seeing how long The Roots can keep Hashtag the Panda dancing (by repeating his theme music over and over) is definitely this.
* PandaingToTheAudience: Hashtag the Panda, a performer in a full-body panda suit, dances about -- to the point of OverlyLongGag -- in the wake of particularly corny monologue jokes. Introduced as a temporary RunningGag in response to a news story about a Chinese zoo that put a television in a panda's pen to help with its ''depression'', the faux panda quickly became an audience favorite; its name was the winner in a fan suggestion contest on Twitter. Hashtag has since only been brought out sporadically, such as during the week the show spent at [[Ride/UniversalStudios Universal Orlando]] in June 2014 -- and Creator/BenStiller turned out to be in the suit, claiming to have been Hashtag all along in an effort to promote a new project, to Fallon's perplexment.
* ProductPlacement: A sly one. Fallon has expressed a desire to get a truck, and on the 3/31/14 episode, he finally announced that he would be buying a Ford F-150. Guess what one of the sponsors for the show is? Ford.
* TakeThat: When NBC anchor Brian Williams was a guest, he delivered quite a few good-natured take thats to Fallon, mostly claiming that his newscast is supporting Fallon's show and that he's doing something that actually matters.
* VarietyShow: He's expressed interest in having more guests give performances as opposed to simply plugging their latest project.
* VoiceClipSong: A recurring segment on the show (carried over from ''Late Night'') has clips of ''NBC Nightly News'' anchor Brian Williams edited together to make him seem like he's rapping a famous song. Examples have included "Gin & Juice", "Rapper's Delight", and "Baby Got Back"!
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