Leno bids farewell to Tonight Show
Published 07/02/2014 | 10:22
Jay Leno has become tearful and choked up as he said goodbye to The Tonight Show, as he concluded what he called the "greatest 22 years of my life".
"I am the luckiest guy in the world. This is tricky," said the emotional Leno, stepping down for the second and presumably last time as host of US TV's late-night programme. Jimmy Fallon takes over Tonight in New York on February 17.
Leno shared that he'd lost his mother the first year he became Tonight host, his dad the second and then his brother.
"And after that I was pretty much out of family. And the folks here became my family," he said of the crew and staff.
It was a tender finish to a farewell show that was mostly aiming for laughs, with traditional monologue jokes, clips from old shows and a wild assortment of celebrities helping to see Leno off.
Leno's first departure came in 2009, when he was briefly replaced by Conan O'Brien, but reclaimed the show after a messy transition and O'Brien's lackluster ratings. Then he was moving to a prime-time show on NBC; this time he has said he'll focus on comedy clubs and his beloved car collection.
Looking sharp in a black suit and bright blue tie, Leno was greeted by an ovation from the VIP audience. The typically self-contained comic betrayed a bit of nervousness, stumbling over a few lines in his monologue.
He didn't trip over his opening line, though - a final dig at his employer.
"You're very kind," he told the audience. "I don't like goodbyes. NBC does."
Leno, 63, brought his show full circle with Billy Crystal, who was his first guest in May 1992. Crystal played ringmaster at one point, calling on Oprah Winfrey, Jack Black, Kim Kardashian, Carol Burnett and others for a musical tribute to Jay with a Sound Of Music song parody.
"So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye. If Fallon tanks, you'll be back here next year," sang Jack Black.
The Big Bang Theory star Jim Parson's contribution was: "We've watched you when we're weary. Your great success is called the big chin theory."
In a videotaped segment, celebrities offered career advice to Leno.
"Why would I give a (expletive) about what he does. He's a grown man," said Mark Wahlberg.
President Barack Obama, like other politicians a favourite target of Leno's, struck back in his clip.
"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 US ambassador to Antarctica. "Hope you have a warm coat, funnyman."
Closing his final show, Leno gave a final shout out. It was to his wife of more than 30 years, Mavis: "I'm coming home, honey!"