"Welcome to 'The Tonight Show' - or as Comcast calls us, 'The Expendables!'" Jay Leno said in late August, after it was learned that he had taken a pay cut to save the jobs of Tonight Show staff members.
WSJ.com reports that NBC has confirmed that the Tonight Show budget cuts were done to reverse tens of millions of dollars in budget increases when Leno made the ill-fated move to 10:00 p.m. in 2009.
Leno accepted a 50 percent pay cut to around $15 million a year in salary, and extended his contract to May 2014. Twenty staff members were laid off in the cutbacks.
The Tonight Show host did not ignore the controversy in his monologues. “I knew something was going on,” Leno said, according to CNN. “Friday morning I woke up and there was a peacock head in my bed.”
According to CNN, Leno replaced Johnny Carson as host of "The Tonight Show" in 1992 until 2009 when he hosted "The Jay Leno Show" five nights a week at 10 p.m. By January 2010, NBC announced that Leno would return to the Tonight Show hosting job.
"The Tonight Show" has been hurt by TV viewership declining over recent years, along with the addition of talk programming from Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Conan O’Brien on cable. O’Brien was the host of The Tonight Show for a brief time in 2009 before Leno returned.
NBC said Leno appeared to understand. According to TheCelebrityCafe.com, he said, “We are just going to work harder and more efficiently.”
Leno doesn’t figure to be struggling too much from the salary rollback. According to deadline.com , he claims to bank his entire Tonight Show salary and live on the fees he makes from doing stand-up appearances, reportedly $15M-$20M a year.