Leno Gets Last Laugh on Letterman

Despite Jay Leno's lowest summer ratings, he still beats Letterman

By Sara Dover
|  Sunday, Sep 5, 2010  |  Updated 12:01 AM CDT
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Old rivalries die hard. When news of the shake-up at The Tonight Show hit, David Letterman took advantage. Letterman has been making fun of Leno constantly on his show and reminiscing about when he was overlooked as host of Tonight. In response, Leno quipped on his prime-time show, "You know the best way to get Letterman to ignore you? Marry him. He will not bother you. He won�t look you in the eye."

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David Letterman is picking on rival Jay Leno, but the joke may be on him.

The Hollywood Reporter posted that NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” came out of the summer with its worst ratings for the season, but still managed to keep ahead of  CBS' “Late Night with David Letterman.”

The numbers came out just after Letterman cracked jokes about Leno all week. Last night he mocked the rivalry between Leno and Conan O'brien as well as Leno's extravagant car collection.

“Leno has more cars than Hertz,” he said. “A regular guy with 600 cars—explain that!.” Leno’s ratings were also 12 per cent higher than when Conan O’Brien held the same time slot in summer of 2009.

Over the summer Leno averaged 3.8 million viewers and 1.0 rating for viewers ages 18-49  – a record low for the funnyman. Still, it was enough to surpass both Letterman’s audience numbers and ratings by 22%.

And again, two days ago in light of the Leno’s 17th anniversary at NBC, Letterman stuck in his best Leno impression.

Despite the dismal ratings, NBC affiliate managers remained optimistic that this fall's upcoming prime time lineup will kick up late-night ratings.

"There's been a lot of NBC stations that have suffered significant declines in late prime, and that's not going to happen with this lineup based on the estimates buyers are getting," Eric Lassberg, president of the NBC affiliate in Austin told The Hollywood Reporter. "All evidence points to our ratings going up [at 10 p.m.]"

Selected Reading: The Hollywood Reporter, Forbes, New York Post

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