Iron jaw JAY LENO dishing out the payback!

JAY LENO has once again proven he’s the king of late-night TV – and getting the last laugh on the naysayers at NBC who are putting him out to pasture.

Just nine months before being forced to hand over his hosting reigns to Jimmy Fallon, Jay’s “Tonight Show” is not only handily beating second-place Jimmy Kimmel but also creaming his archrival David Letterman by the largest margin in four years.

According to a pal, Jay said: “High ratings are the best revenge. When I go out, it’ll be on the top of the heap. They’ll be begging me to stay, just like they did before.”

As The ENQUIRER reported last September, Jay, 63, was set to give up his late-night throne after network execs cut both his staff and salary. A source told us at the time that he didn’t feel appreciated.

Leno began helming “The Tonight Show” in 1992 and has been the leader of the late-night pack for most of the past two decades. But that hasn’t stopped NBC from ditching him for younger talent. He was replaced by Conan O’Brien in 2009, but floundering ratings led to Jay’s return in March 2010.

Now, according to the source, Jay is telling pals he may take his staff and move to another network after Fallon replaces him.

“As much as Jay loves ‘The Tonight Show,’ he’s built his own brand,” the source noted. “He could easily pack up and head to FOX.

“And they would offer him a bundle to do it.”