Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon teamed up, and it was no April Fools' joke.
When NBC released a preview video earlier Monday with word that the two hosts would be appearing together in a sketch on "Late Night," some media outlets and fans speculated it might be a prank. "An April Fools' joke maybe?" questioned Deadline. The Wrap pondered whether to "believe a video sent out wide by NBC on April Fools' Day."
Dear NBC: I am not falling for a "Watch Jimmy Fallon to see him and Leno address latenight rumors" release on April 1.— Brian Lowry (@blowryontv) April 1, 2013
But the sketch turned out to be real, and Leno and Fallon performed a heartfelt duet set to the tune of the classic "West Side Story" song, "Tonight."
A keen ear will notice the question "Are you gonna go to Fox?" appeared in the online sneak but was missing from the final version that aired. NBC told The Wrap that the line was cut for time and pointed out that the bit still included a Fox reference. The omission (which probably only trimmed off a couple of seconds) is suspect: Is having two mentions of Leno possibly jumping to the rival network a little too telling? Even though nothing has been planned or confirmed, Fox has definitely considered giving Leno a new home. Steve Pruett, chairman of the Fox affiliate board, told The New York Post that they'd be interested in a business plan to build a new 11 o'clock late-night show around Leno.
The four-minute skit began with Leno leaving the "Tonight Show" stage in Burbank, hounded by crew members asking about the rumors that Fallon will be replacing him as host. Meanwhile, in New York, Fallon looked troubled as he sat surrounded by newspapers and magazines splashed with his name and face. Then, Fallon got a call from Leno, asking how the younger man was holding up.
[Related: Details on 'Tonight Show' Saga]
Fallon asked, "We're still friends, right?" And as Leno replied, "Of course," the music started to soar.
"Tonight, tonight, who's going to host 'Tonight'? Is it gonna be Jimmy or Jay?" Fallon sang. "Tonight, tonight, where will they tape 'Tonight'? In New York, will it stay in L.A.?"
Leno's version of the chorus included a nod to his longtime rival, "Late Show" host David Letterman: "Tonight, tonight, my ratings were all right. Twenty years and I'm still in first place! Tonight, tonight, I've got Fox on the line, or maybe I could take over for Dave."
And at the end of the song, the last verse poked fun at how rampant the speculation has become. "Tonight, tonight, who cares who hosts 'Tonight'?" they belted. "People just watch online the next day!"
When "Late Night" resumed, Fallon made no further mention of NBC or "The Tonight Show." Earlier, though, Leno had made one dig in his monologue, saying, "NBC and I have reached a peaceful, amicable agreement that will be beneficial to both sides. April Fool! It will never happen." Over on ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live," Kimmel joked in his monologue, "I'm here to tell you 'The Tonight Show' is canceled. Oh, April Fools!"