Video: Jay Leno Leaves The Tonight Show, 'Greatest 22 Years Of My Life'
Jay Leno said good-bye to NBC's The Tonight Show last night, in an emotional final show. He choked up, telling the audience, "This has been the greatest 22 years of my life... I'm the luckiest guy in the world. I got to meet presidents, astronauts, movie stars… It's just been incredible. I got to work with lighting people who make me look better than I really am… I got to work with audio people who make me sound better than I really do. I got to work with producers," pausing to choke back from tears, "just all kinds of talented people who make me look smarter than I really am."
His final guest was Billy Crystal, who was the first guest when Leno started hosting The Tonight Show in 1992. Crystal, a longtime friend, "recalled the scuffling days when Leno, still living in Boston, provided a place for other comics to crash and kept a poster of Robert Klein over his bed," as the LA Times reported. Fun fact: When Crystal's comedy group opened for Leno, the billing called Leno "Ray Peno."
Crystal also performed a version of The Sound of Music's "So Long, Farewell," with Oprah Winfrey, Jack Black, Kim Kardashian, Carol Burnett, singer Sheryl Crow, LA Clippers star Chris Paul and Jim Parsons. Oprah sang, "If you were me, you'd buy them all a car," while Black referred to the Conan O'Brien period of The Tonight Show, "So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye. If Fallon tanks, you'll be back here next year."
[O'Brien made a Leno joke on his TBS late night show, "The Olympics start airing tonight on NBC. It’s very cool. That’s right, NBC has the Olympics. It’s a big deal. NBC will finally get to show somebody who is OK with passing the torch."]
His monologue jokes included "Today Anthony Weiner sent me photo of his penis looking sad" and "You know the saddest part of all? O.J. never found the real killers." He also joked about his rivalry with David Letterman, "You know, over the years, people always wanted to know whether Letterman and I actually didn’t like each other. It’s not true. We like each other. We’ve had a long relationship. We both realized nobody wants to turn on late night TV and see millionaires fighting.That’s what Republican primaries are for."
Steve Carrell, Olivia Wilde, Kevin Bacon, Kevin Hart, Bill Maher, Bob Costas, President Obama and others had words of advice:
Leno is known for his work ethic and "single-mindedness"; according the NY Times, "He once asked NBC if they could hire a separate writing staff for the eight weeks the show was in repeats, with the regular writers on vacation, so he could be on the air every week of the year." He said last night, "The first year of the show, I lost my, the second year I lost my dad, then my brother died. After that I was pretty much out of family. Then the folks here became my family. Consequently, when they went through rough times, I tried to be there for them... When people say to me, 'Hey why didn't you go to ABC or Fox,' I didn't know anybody over there. These are the only people I've ever known." Leno added, "I'm also proud to say this is a union show and I have never worked with a more professional group of people in my life."
Jimmy Fallon will take over The Tonight Show on February 17, from New York. Leno said, "I'm really excited for Jimmy Fallon. You know it's fun to kinda fun being the old guy, to sit back here to see where the new generation takes this institution…. I'm so glad I got to be a part of it. But it really is time to go and hand it off to the next guy, it really is.”