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‘Tonight Show’ Shuffles Top Duties as Producer Josh Lieb Takes Universal TV Deal

Jimmy Fallon Hosting 2016 Golden Globes
Douglas Gorenstein/NBC

It’s a new morning, of sorts, behind the scenes of NBC’s vaunted “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”

Josh Lieb, who has been the late-night show’s lead producer since its launch in February of 2014, will leave the program to take up writing and producing duties as part of a broader overall deal with Universal Television. His departure from the program follows a recent announcement that producer Gavin Purcell, who was instrumental in some of “Tonight’s” digital outreach, would move to digital-media outlet Vox overseeing video initiatives.

At “Tonight,” three producers will get expanded roles.  Katie Hockmeyer will assume oversight of production and Gerard Bradford and Mike DiCenzo will assume oversight of the show’s creative direction.

“Josh has been a tremendous asset and has played a key role in helping us successfully launch ‘The Tonight Show.’  We will miss him and wish him all the best with this great new opportunity,” said Fallon in a statement. “We are excited to have a great trio to fill his shoes.  Katie, Mike, and Gerard, who have been with me since ‘Late Night,’ will be expanding their roles, and they and the rest of the team will help us continue to have fun and success.”

Change of the lead producer at one of TV’s late-night programs is often viewed as a seismic event. CBS in April named the lead producer of “CBS This Morning,” Chris Licht, to oversee its “Late Show,” which had previously been run by its host, Stephen Colbert, and was seen as having production difficulties. In the case of Fallon’s “Tonight,” however, there are no performance issues. The show’s ratings continue to dominate competitors by a wide margin.

Leading these shows, however, is an intense effort. Producers of scripted programs or weekly shows may run hard sprints. But supervising a late-night program is a marathon.  The shows are always in need of new comedy sketches and fresh celebrity guests. In the case of Fallon’s program, there are other challenges: How to get guests to take part in the host’s signature antics that involve games and stunts?

“This is obviously bittersweet — there’s no show in the world more fun than ‘The Tonight Show.’ I’ve been able to run the circus every night,” said Lieb, in a statement. “But I’d like to write more, and try different things, and — frankly– spend a little more time with my kids. Jimmy’s a joy to work with, and the troika taking over for me is more than qualified. You won’t even notice I’m gone.”

Hockmeyer has been at NBCUniversal since the earliest days of her career, first helping Lorne Michaels, executive produce of “Tonight” and former NBCU chief Jeff Zucker, as an assistant. She joined Fallon as an associate producer on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” and became a supervising producer on “Tonight.” Bradford and DiCenzo have written for Fallon since the launch of his tenure on “Late Night.” They have had a hand in everything from President Barack Obama “slow jam” the news in a recent visit to the show’s popular sketches involving house band The Roots play  popular songs on instruments one might find in an elementary-school classroom.