Who’s the Youngest ‘Tonight’ Host? Not Fallon. And Oldest Is a Shocker

Figure beloved by Generation Y is actually the oldest to take over, however briefly

Jimmy Fallon will be the next "Tonight Show" host because NBC hopes he can draw younger viewers. But he isn't the youngest person to get the job. Not by a longshot.

And the oldest person to take the job is a shocker: At 46, Conan O'Brien was older than any other full-time host when they first got the job. (Jay Leno was older, of course, when he took it back from Conan.)

For viewers who remember Johnny Carson's retirement at 66 — and who tune in to the grey-haired Letterman or Leno today — it's easy to believe that late night has always been an older man's game, and that it's only recently that relative whippersnappers like Fallon (38) and Jimmy Kimmel (45) have gotten into the action.

Not so.

"Tonight" was first launched in 1954 with the 32-year-old Steve Allen at the helm. Jack Paar, the show's next permanent host, took over in 1957 at the age of 39 — the same age Fallon (pictured in Justin Bieber mode) will be when he takes over next year.

Carson, the longest-serving host, got the job in 1962 at the age of 36. He handed off three decades later to Leno, then 42.

Leno briefly ceded the show to O'Brien in 2009, and we all remember how that went down, right? Like Fallon, O'Brien is perceived as appealing to a younger, edgier audience than the middle-of-the-road Leno. O'Brien and his "I'm With Coco" army took to Twitter and Facebook to press his case.

O'Brien got his first show, "Late Night," at 30, which gave him a youthful image that stayed with most viewers even over his 16 years with the show. His shock of red hair doesn't hurt.

If you're summoning up this story on your holotablet in 2034, two decades into Fallon's tenure on "FacebookGoogleCorp Presents Tonight," we hope it gives you a good laugh.