Los Angeles, CA, United States (4E) – Jay Leno has bid his final goodbye as the hit NBC late night program “The Tonight Show” has come to an end on Thursday, February 6, after 22 years of airing.
In his six-minute speech, which got a standing ovation from the audience, Leno, 63, took the time to thank his show’s viewers, the crew and his guests, for their loyalty.
“This is the hard part,” Leno said, his voice breaking. “This is tricky. I have to thank the audience. We wouldn’t be on the air without you people. This has been the greatest 22-years of my life. […] It’s just been incredible. I got to work with lighting people, who made me look better than I really am. I got to work with audio people who make me sound better than I really do. And I got to work with producers and directors, and just all kinds of talent people. They made me look a lot smarter than I really am.”
Leno then recounted the hardships he faced during the early years of his show, losing his mom, dad and brother, making everyone involved in the show “his family.” He added, “Consequently when they went through rough times, I tried to be there for them.” He then lauded his staff, saying he has “never worked with a more professional group of people” in his life.
He also shared that despite his leaving, he is really excited for incoming host Jimmy Fallon, who will take over his place starting Monday next week. “It’s fun to kind of be the old guy, sit back here and see where the next generation takes this next institution. It’s been a great institution for 60 years. I am so glad I got to be a part of it, but it really is time to go and hand it off to the next guy. It really is. In closing I want to quote Johnny Carson, who was the greatest guy to ever do this job. He said, ‘I bid you all a heartfelt goodnight.”
Meanwhile, Leno was joined by surprise guests—most of whom have guested on his show in the previous years—including Billy Crystal, Oprah Winfrey, Kim Kardashian, Jack Black, Carol Burnett, Sheryl Crow and Jim Parsons, who took part in singing a rendition of The Sound of Music’s “So Long, Farewell.”