February 6th was a night to bid adieu to the King of the Tonight Show – Jay Leno. After having been associated with the Tonight Show for over 20 years, the legendary host finally said his goodbyes. The jokemeister kept America in splits while he ran his term as host, with the list of celebrities appearing on the show ranging from famous Hollywood stars to politicians like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
Leno entered the show as replacement for Johnny Carson on May 25th, 1992 and featured in 3,775 episodes until May 29th, 2009 when he was briefly replaced by Conan O’Brien. America missed Leno big time and he was made host once again on March 1st, 2010, after which he finally made his exit last week. The new season will premiere on February 17th with Jimmy Fallon as the show’s new host.
On the finale of the Tonight Show, Leno alluded humorously to the time when he was fired in 2009 and said, “I don’t need to be fired three times. I get the hint. I get the hint.”
The evening of Leno’s farewell was livened up by the return of his first ever guest and fellow comedian Billy Crystal, who introduced an all-star cast of “The Shut Your Von Trapp Family Singers!” to sing him off along with Oprah Winfrey, Carol Burnett and Kim Kardashian. The lyrics went something like this:
“So long, farewell,
Auf wiedersehen, my dear.
If Fallon tanks,
You’ll be back here next year.”
About 15 million viewers tuned in for the Thursday finale of the show, almost as many as those who viewed his debut in 1992. Leno made many friends in the Hollywood industry through the years and they expressed their emotions online through Twitter and Facebook.
Justin Timberlake tweeted, “Much love to the one and only @jayleno. Thank you for all the laughs and great times! Also… Can I have a car? No? Ok, cool.”
Even fellow host and rival Jimmy Kimmel tweeted saying, “Issues aside, 20 years at #1 is a remarkable achievement. Congratulations and best wishes to @jayleno on an incredible run.”
Leno said “I don’t like goodbyes, NBC does.” He added, “It really is time to go and hand it off to the next guy… this has been the greatest 22 years of my life… I bid you all a heartfelt goodbye (echoing Carson’s farewell line).” He ended his last episode by saying, “We wouldn’t be on the air without you people. Secondly, this has been the greatest 22 years of my life.”