Jay Leno has left “The Tonight Show” before, but not like this time. The famous comedian appeared to be tearful and choked up Thursday as he called his work in the show the “greatest 22 years of my life.”
“I am the luckiest guy in the world. This is tricky,” said the emotional Leno, leading the show his last time as host. Jimmy Fallon will replace the veteran since over “Tonight” in New York on Feb. 17.
Jay Leno revealed to viewers that he’d lost his mother the first year he hosted “Tonight”, 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 of “Tonight.”
“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,” The Huffington Post describes.
The news of Leno’s leave surfaced almost a year ago when NBC TV-network revealed that ‘Tonight Show’ host will be replaced by a new one.
“Jay Leno is an entertainment icon, making millions of people laugh every weeknight for more than 20 years,” said NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke last March. “His long reign as the highest-rated late-night host is a testament to his work ethic and dedication to his viewers and to NBC.”
“I’m thrilled [Fallon] will become the sixth host of The Tonight Show at exactly the right moment, in conjunction with our coverage of next year’s Winter Olympic Games from Sochi, Russia,” he added in a statement.
In the statement, Leno offered his best to his successor. “Congratulations Jimmy. I hope you’re as lucky as me and hold on to the job until you’re the old guy. If you need me, I’ll be at the garage.” Fallon added, “I’m really excited to host a show that starts today instead of tomorrow.”
With rumors swirling about the future of “The Tonight Show,” the two men competing for the host job, Jimmy Fallon and Jay Leno made a joint appearance earlier this month to poke fun at the rumors.
In April Leno and Fallon performed a heartfelt duet set to the tune of the classic “West Side Story” song, “Tonight.” The two hosts jumped on the phone with each other yesterday and belted out a paraphrased version of “Tonight” from West Side Story.
The fact that Leno agreed to collaborate with Fallon in this sketch appears to be a signal that he, and more importantly NBC, wishes to avoid a messy PR battle when the transition occurs.
NBC has had two previous (and very public) battles for late night, first when Letterman and Leno competed to succeed Johnny Carson in 1992 and later, in 2009, when after promising Conan O’Brien the slot NBC grew anxious about O’Brien’s performance — and Leno’s ill-fated primetime show — and returned Leno to his late-night berth.