March 20, 2009 at 12:00 PM EDT

Thursday’s much-anticipated appearance by President Barack Obama on The Tonight Show scored big overnight ratings among metered-market households. The NBC yakfest attracted a whopping 11.2 rating/26 share — Jay Leno’s best overnight performance since Jan. 24, 2005, when the show did a special tribute to Johnny Carson, and the fourth-biggest draw in his 16 years as host. The ratings come from 56 local markets metered by Nielsen; final numbers will come in March 26.

The fact that Obama was the first sitting U.S. President to appear on a late-night talk show certainly didn’t do any favors for the competition. Late Show With David Letterman averaged a mere 2.2/7 (though his program was delayed by basketball in some markets) while ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live clocked an anemic 1.4/4. That’s probably just as well, since Kimmel’s guest Christopher Mintz-Plasse (a.k.a. McLovin of Superbad) dropped an F-bomb while sitting on the couch (the moment was singled out on Defamer), although an ABC spokeswoman says the expletive was bleeped out for the central and pacific time zones.

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