Jay Leno Forced To Take Pay Cut As The Tonight Show Downsizes

Even NBC’s The Tonight Show apparently isn’t immune from the terrible US economy. Host Jay Leno reportedly agreed to a salary reduction, and about 25 employees lost their jobs altogether in a layoff yesterday, even though the highly rated show is still considered one of the network’s cash cows.

According to Deadline Hollywood, “Jay Leno took what is being described as a ‘tremendous’ pay cut to ‘save as many people’s jobs as he could.'” Producers also had to accept salary rollbacks or find themselves on the unemployment line.

Deadline Hollywood’s Nikki Finke adds the following background on The Tonight Show layoffs:

“So what happened to merit the downsizing? ‘I don’t think ad sales are off. I just think the people who bought this company, Comcast, wants to go through everything at NBC and get their money back,’ an NBC insider tells me. ‘It’s hard to go through those kinds of cuts. It’s more a network issue than a late-night issue.’ “

No one will have to organize a bake sale for Leno, however. He reportedly banks about $20 million a year from his stand-up gigs alone apart from his huge Tonight Show check of about $30 million annually (at least prior to the pay cut). The other affected staffers undoubtedly are far less well fixed.

Jay Leno has been the host of The Tonight Show since 1992 when he succeeded the retiring Johnny Carson. In 2009, Leno relinquished the gig to Conan O’Brien if you recall that whole soap opera. Leno controversially reclaimed his Tonight Show hosting position in 2010 after his prime time NBC show flopped. O’Brien later wound up on TBS.

Do you watch The Tonight Show with Jay Leno?

[Image credit: Lee Stranahan]