WASHINGTON, D.C.: Talk show icon Jay Leno bid farewell to his remarkable 22-year run at the top of the late-night United Sates television heap on Thursday (Friday in Manila) when he signed off from National Broadcasting Co.’s The Tonight Show for the last time.
“I want to thank you guys. You folks have been incredible,” an emotional Leno, 63, told his fans in concluding his final broadcast.
“I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” he added. “I got to meet presidents, astronauts, movie stars—it’s just been incredible.”
Country music titan Garth Brooks and comedian Billy Crystal—Leno’s first guest back in May 1992—appeared as special guests on what NBC called “Jay’s historic farewell episode.”
The silver-haired, square-jawed comedian and classic-car enthusiast is an American icon, famous for skewering hapless politicians in his opening monologue and welcoming celebrity guests for breezy interviews.
President Barack Obama, a past Tonight Show guest and the butt of not a few of Leno’s jokes, sent pre-recorded best wishes—along with a job offer Leno could refuse.
“I’ve decided to make you may new ambassador to Antarctica,” the president quipped. “Hope you’ve got a warm coat, funnyman.”
In a generational changing of the guard, baby-boomer Leno has given way to Fallon, 39, a Generation X’er who previously hosted the Late Night show that follows The Tonight Show.
What’s more, from February 17, the show will be telecast from New York, where it was located before it moved to Los Angeles in 1972 when the legendary Johnny Carson helmed the program.
It’s not the first time Leno has left the show, after he was infamously fired by NBC in 2009 and forced into another program in an earlier time slot—only to triumphantly return the next year after an outcry from NBC affiliates.