Why Did Leno Phone It In On A Duet With Fallon About The “Tonight” Show?

After every Tonight Show, Jay Leno gives the intro for Jimmy Fallon’s show, but last night it was a tiny bit different. After weeks of very public rumors about the future of The Tonight Show, current host Leno and probable future host Fallon joined forces to do a sketch that was intended to lampoon the situation.

It was a great idea: switch up the lyrics to West Side Story’s “Tonight” to mock the duo’s current awkward situation. Except in execution, Fallon came out on top and Leno showed why he might be on the way out.

Leno’s former tussles with Dave Letterman and Conan O’Brien over the gig were notoriously bitter and brutal. By agreeing to do the video sketch with Fallon, he showed grace…but it was an obviously reluctant grace.

Leno’s clearly not as comfortable doing sketch comedy as he is doing monologue jokes. His timing seems slow and reluctant and his eyes actually look sad. Whereas Saturday Night Live alum Fallon can switch from impersonating Natalie Wood’s wide eyed innocence staring out the window to his own awkwardness with Jay to an exuberant dance in seconds.

Late night television’s survival in the age of the internet is deeply dependent upon a host’s ability to create viral video clips. Fallon’s sketch training makes him a pro at this, but Leno can barely lip-synch.

Not to mention, the song itself is possibly morbidly prescient. I’m assuming Fallon gave himself Maria’s part–and Maria, not Tony–is the one who survives West Side Story. Also, West Side Story is not a fun musical. Sure those Sharks and Jets snap a lot, but after the snapping comes a whole lot of stabbing.

Then again, maybe it’s just a silly video with two grown men happily singing about how one of them might be putting the other out of a job soon–because men happily sing about those things all the time.

[Photo Credit: NBC Universal]