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Conan to Succeed Leno in 2009

Conan O'Brien will be the next host of The Tonight Show when Jay Leno steps down, which will be sometime in 2009. That announcement is expected to come from NBC Monday.

Leno began hosting the show in May 1992, when he took over from Johnny Carson after having been the show's go-to guest host for years.

O'Brien, who hails from Boston, has been hosting Late Night on NBC for the past decade. Before that, he was an Emmy-winning writer for Saturday Night Live and writer and producer on The Simpsons. His favorite episode, according to his bio, is "Springfield Gets a Monorail."

The last time there was a Tonight Show host switch, the heir apparent also came from NBC late night, David Letterman.  The decision to go instead with Leno helped send Letterman to CBS. 

But it looks like O'Brien is a lock. He has been signed to a new contract that covers  another five years at
Late Night,
then gives him the big chair.
Leno has been winning the head-to-head battle with Letterman for some time now, with NBC pointing out that Tonight has won 34 consecutive sweep months and 36 consecutive quarters.
Leno planned to make the announcement on Monday night's show, which also marks the program's 50th anniversary.

By the time he leaves, Leno, 54, will have been the host for 17 years, second only to Carson's 29.
NBC said Leno would “step aside” for O’Brien, not retire from television and a spokeswoman said they expect he’ll have an active role in at NBC afterward.
One piece of the puzzle not addressed: Where the show will originate. O’Brien’s show airs out of New York; Leno’s Tonight show is based in Burbank.  P.J. Bednarski contributed to this report.

When O'Brien takes over, he will be only the fifth host in the show's history. The others were, in order,
Steve Allen, Jack, Carson, and Leno.