A few weeks ago, we learned 20 staffers were laid off from the Tonight Show and that Jay Leno took a “tremendous” pay cut in order to prevent additional employee cuts. And now we know just how “tremendous” that cut was: 50 percent! The Wall Street Journal today reports that Leno’s nearly $30 million salary was slashed to about $15 million, which means the show’s annual budget was lowered by 20 percent. During the cutbacks, which left the Tonight Show with 200 employees, Leno also re-upped with Comcast-owned NBC through May 2014.
During his first monologue after the firings (video here), Leno joked, “Welcome to the Tonight Show, or as Comcast calls us, The Expendables!” telling the studio audience, “As you may have heard, our parent company has downsized the Tonight Show. And we’ve consistently been No. 1 in the ratings. And if you know anything about our network, that kind of thing is frowned upon.” NBC’s head entertainment suit, Robert Greenblatt explained the cuts were necessary in order to get out of debt from the millions put in to the show when Leno went to prime time. (You remember that whole Leno/Conan shitshow, right?) Watch Conan O’Brien and David Letterman talk about it here. “All we did was bring it back down to pre-prime-time levels,” Greenblatt said.
It’s been widely reported that Leno doesn’t even spend his Tonight Show salary, as he’s able to live on the extra green he gets from stand-up shows and other engagements. So, don’t worry, comedy fans. Jay will be ok!