I just finished watching Jay Leno’s final episode as host of The Tonight Show. At the risk of sounding cliché, it does seem like yesterday when Leno took over the reins in May 1992. Time goes by faster with every year.
I must admit that I can’t remember the last time I watched Leno. Actually, scratch that. I tuned in to watch Sixto Rodriguez perform last year. I’m generally not a big late night fan. It takes a lot to get me to laugh these days. I didn’t laugh during Leno’s monologue, but smiled when Leno and Billy Crystal kibitzed about old times as young comedians in Boston and New York.
Crystal took a page from The Sound of Music and recruited Jack Black, Kim Kardashian, NBA superstar Chris Paul, Jim Carson, Sheryl Crow, Carol Burnett and Oprah Winfrey to serenade Leno.
At the end of night, Leno held back tears as he spoke losing his mother, father and brother in the first three years as host of The Tonight Show. With their loss, the crew there became family to him adding that their success was his success. The evening closed with Garth Brooks playing “Friends in Low Places”.
Jimmy Fallon takes over The Tonight Show on February 17th. Whether he’ll meet the same fate as Conan O’Brien and go on an impromptu musical tour remains to be seen. But if he does falter, Leno will not be there to catch his and NBC’s fall. All things considered, given that Leno has been twice dumped by NBC it would be foolish for him to go back a third time if NBC came calling. He leaves NBC on top and with his head held high.
Jay Leno will still be able to spend his days telling jokes and fixing up classic cars. Not a bad way to live.