UPDATE 1-Obama scores a first with Jay Leno appearance

* Obama to talk about economic plan, “other topics”

* Leno nears end of 17-year run; new show to debut in fall

(Recasts, adds NBC statement, background; byline)

LOS ANGELES, March 16 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will take his economic strategy to Jay Leno’s comic couch on Thursday in the first appearance by a sitting U.S. president on a late-night TV talk show.

NBC said in a statement that Obama would sit down before a live audience on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” on March 19 to talk about his economic plan and “other topics.”

Obama’s visit to the Burbank studio near Los Angeles, where the top-rated late-night TV show is recorded, will come during a visit by the president to Southern California this week.

NBC said it would be Obama’s first sit-down talk show appearance in studio with a live audience since his election last year, and the first ever appearance by a U.S. president while in office on a late-night chat show.

Obama appeared on the “The Tonight Show” in October 2007 during a presidential election campaign that broadened the reach of political campaigning into popular television, the Internet and text messaging.

The two-month-old Obama administration has already won passage of a $787 billion economic stimulus package aimed at lifting the U.S. economy out of a deepening recession.

But Obama’s record $3.55 trillion budget plan faces opposition from Republicans, and some Democrats, over its high costs and bold moves on healthcare, education and global warming.

Leno announced last week that he would host a free benefit concert on April 7 in Detroit -- one of the cities hit hardest by the recession. A second show has since been added to meet strong demand.

The comic host is leaving the late-night slot on NBC in May after 17 years and launching a new, prime-time chat show at 10 p.m., five nights a week, in the fall of 2009 on the same network. (Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Eric Walsh)