Jay Leno bid an emotional goodbye to The Tonight Show on Thursday night. The 63-year-old comedian was humble and grateful for his time on the show, calling it “the greatest 22 years of my life.”
Leno has left The Tonight Show before in 2009, when NBC moved him to a primetime slot and Conan O’Brien took over The Tonight Show. Less than a year later, he was given his spot back on The Tonight Show due to lower than expected ratings in Leno and Conan’s new time slots.
Leno took one last jab at NBC in his opening monologue, saying “I don’t like goodbyes… NBC does, but I don’t care for them.”
Leno made a full circle with his last show, inviting Billy Crystal on as the guest. Crystal was Leno’s first guest back in 1992. Crystal praised Leno, saying the late-night comedian made America feel a little bit better when we go to sleep at night, and referred to him as “America’s night light”. For the last two decades Leno has been that light – a staple of late-night television who completed the difficult task of upholding the Tonight Show after Johnny Carson’s departure.
A huge highlight from the show was when Crystal led a star-studded performance for Leno bringing Oprah, Carol Burnett, Kim Kardashian and others to sing their rendition of The Sound of Music’s “So Long Farewell”.
“So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye. If Fallon tanks you’ll be back here next year,” sang Jack Black.
“So long, Farewell, you really raised the bar. If you were me, you’d buy them all a car.” Sang Oprah Winfrey.
The show also featured a segment where celebrities gave Leno advice on what he should do with his career now. Even Obama made an appearance in the videotaped segment: “Jay, you’ve made a whole lot of jokes about me over the years, but don’t worry, I’m not upset,” Obama said, adding that he was making Leno the U.S. ambassador to Antarctica. “Hope you have a warm coat, funnyman.”
Above all the jokes and laughs, a nostalgic tone took over the final taping of The Tonight Show. Leno and Crystal reminisced about their days when they were just getting started as entertainers. A more intimate moment came close to the end of the show when Leno started to say goodbye.
A choked-up Leno called himself “the luckiest guy in the world”, expressing that he got to meet presidents, astronauts, and movie stars, and got to work with an extremely talented crew.
He also admitted that the first year he was on The Tonight Show he lost his mother; the second year, his father; and later he lost his brother. He referred to his coworkers as his family after he lost his own.
Musical guest Garth Brooks ended the show with his song ‘Friends in Low Places’.
After the performance Leno said his final goodbye and last words on The Tonight Show: “Thank you everybody, watch Jimmy Fallon, thanks folks see you later, I’m coming home honey.”
Jimmy Fallon is set to make his debut on The Tonight Show on February 17th.
Montclair State | New Jersey