Jay Leno's final 'Tonight Show' an emotional star-studded affair
February 7, 2014 9:29 PM
Jay Leno, right, and Billy Crystal appear during the final taping of NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," in Burbank, Calif., Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014.
By David Hiltbrand / The Philadelphia Inquirer
Now it's official. We can start missing Jay Leno. Thursday night the longtime host of the "Tonight Show" said goodbye for good. How do we know he won't be coming back again?
Because at the beginning of his final hour, he jokingly assured us, "I don't need to be fired three times. I get the hint."
More tellingly, before signing off, this rigorously self-contained man became almost maudlinly sentimental, choking up, his eyes brimming with tears.
"First year of this show, I lost my mom," he said. "Second year, I lost my dad. Then my brother died. I was pretty much out of family. The folks here became my family."
By the time he got to his sign-off, echoing Johnny Carson's goodbye, he was so emotional that he could only get out "I wish you all" before choking on the final words: "a heartfelt good night."
The only announced guests were Billy Crystal (Mr. Leno's guest on his first "Tonight Show" in 1992) and Garth Brooks. But a starry cavalcade of celebrities made appearances.
First there were taped segments with Matt Damon, Tyler Perry, Kevin Bacon, Mark Wahlberg, a randy Martha Stewart, Steve Carell, Olivia Wilde, Bob Costas, Dana Carvey, Bill Maher, Miley Cyrus, Kevin Hart, President Barack Obama, Larry the Cable Guy and (getting the most enthusiastic reception from the studio audience) Charlie Sheen, all offering tongue-in-cheek suggestions for what might be the next episode in Leno's life.
Then after engaging in an interview heavy on reminiscing with Mr. Leno, Mr. Crystal began singing the corny "So Long, Farewell" from "The Sound of Music," backed by a young chorus dressed in Alpine garb.
Then one by one, he brought out a series of stars to each sing a chorus to Mr. Leno, modified for the occasion. The parade included actor Jack Black, Kim Kardashian, basketball player Chris Paul, Sheryl Crow, Jim Parsons, Carol Burnett and Oprah Winfrey. The 80-year-old Ms. Burnett even broke out a Tarzan yell for Mr. Leno. (The previous evening Mr. Leno had Mickey Rooney, 93, in the audience.)
Maybe Mr. Leno, 63, was just trying to prove he isn't as old as NBC is always trying to paint him.
Miss you already, Jay. You are going to stay away, right?