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Thursday night saw the end of a television institution: Jay Leno on the Tonight Show. After taking the reins from Johnny Carson and sitting at the desk in Burbank for 22 years, Leno finally said goodbye, this time for good. The episode featured his first guest, Billy Crystal, along with appearances from Oprah Winfrey, Jack Black and others. Even President Barack Obama had a message for Leno.
Leno called himself the “luckiest guy in the world,” and that his tenure has been the “greatest 22 years of my life,” notes The Associated Press. The host was emotional throughout the night, recalling how NBC and his production team became his family after his mother, father and brother died.
“And after that I was pretty much out of family. And the folks here became my family,” he said.
TheWrap notes that the episode featured plenty of stars, wishing Leno the best. Crystal performed several of Leno’s best bits, while Dana Carvey, Steve Carell, Olivia Wilde, Kevin Bacon and Charlie Sheen suggested what Leno’s next move should be. Jimmy Fallon, who starts as host of the Tonight Show later this month, gave Leno an open invitation to come back as a guest.
President Obama joked about being the butt of many Leno zingers. Winfrey, Black, Kim Kardashian, Carol Burnett and others sang their goodbyes.
“You're very kind,” Leno said at the opening. “I don't like goodbyes. NBC does.”
This really is Leno’s final goodbye. The last time he gave up the show was in 2009, when Conan O’Brien took over briefly. NBC gave him a 10 p.m. show, which was a flop and O’Brien was pushed out.
Leno’s last show ended with country star Garth Brooks singing “Friends in Low Places.”
Fallon takes over the Tonight Show on Feb. 17.