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Leno keeps the NBC jokes coming

Jay Leno performs a monologue

(CNN) — Jay Leno’s been taking hits at NBC all week, but on Thursday’s “Tonight Show” he made a direct reference to his employer’s reported intent to replace him.

Right at the start of his opening monologue, Leno threw out a March Madness quip:

“You all excited about March madness?” the comedian asked his audience. “People talk about who’s in, who’s out, who’s going to be eliminated … and that’s just here at NBC!”

On the heels of Wednesday’s news that “Late Night’s” Jimmy Fallon may be poised to take over “Tonight” by the fall of 2014, at the latest, Leno kept a positive spin on the attention.

“I have never been in the paper this much,” he told his audience Thursday. “It’s fantastic.”

The industry is indeed still closely watching Leno, as new reports have surfaced that the long-time “Tonight Show” host had dinner with NBC Chairman Bob Greenblatt on Thursday.

The two had reportedly exchanged terse words over Leno’s repeated ribbing of NBC’s low ratings. A spokesperson for the network confirmed their outing to The Hollywood Reporter, although it was described as a run-of-the-mill meeting.

In New York, the city’s Daily News is looking at another side to the story: “The Tonight Show’s” rumored move back to the Big Apple.

The NYDN reports that there’s a provision in the tentative state budget that would make state tax credits available for producers of a “talk or variety program that filmed at least five seasons outside the state prior to its first relocated season in New York.”

The budget documents the paper cites also reportedly say that the program’s episodes must be taped in front of a studio audience of at least 200 people, and the show must have an “annual production budget of at least $30 million, or incur at least $10 million a year in capital expenses.”

Yet an aide for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told the New York Daily News that the provision wasn’t written for “The Tonight Show.”

“This is simply part of our ongoing effort to attract more entertainment to the state and more economic activity,” the aide said.

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