Jay Leno gets emotional, bids farewell to 'Tonight Show': 7 highlights
Jay Leno got emotional as he said goodbye to the "Tonight Show" for the second time on Thursday night after hosting the talk series for the majority of the past 22 years, while a slew of celebrities, including Kim Kardashian, paid tribute to him with jokes and a song.
The 63-year-old appeared to be moved to tears in the final minutes of the episode, which also featured a performance from country star Garth Brooks, who sang "The Dance" and "Friends In Low Places" and called Leno the "dearest friend to entertainment."
Check out 7 more highlights from Leno's "Tonight Show" send-off.
1. Jay Leno gets celebrity tribute video, featuring President Barack Obama.
A video of celebrities giving Leno words of advice was screened and featured the likes of Olivia Wilde, Kevin Bacon -- who presented a mock nude painting of the host, Miley Cyrus -- who pretended to drive and put a dent in one of Leno's luxury cars, Dana Carvey -- who did an impression of him, Martha Stewart -- who tried to seduce him with a bacon bikini, plus Larry the Cable Guy, Steve Carell of "The Office," Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Hart, Charlie Sheen, Tyler Perry and Bill Maher.
The comedian and HBO talk show host gave an additional mock introduction welcoming Leno back to the "Tonight Show."
"Third time's a charm, OK, my friend?" he joked. "Good luck to you."
President Barack Obama also made an appearance.
"Jay, you've made a whole lot of jokes about me over the years, but do not worry, I'm not upset," he said. "On a totally unrelated note, I've decided to make you my new ambassador to Antarctica. hope you've got a warm coat, funnyman."
2. Jay Leno dresses in drag -- and parodies Susan Boyle?
Leno dressed up as a woman in the celebrity tribute video after Perry, known for appearing in drag in his "Madea" comedy movies, advised him to "reinvent" himself.
"I dunno," Leno replied, before launching into a high-pitched version of the song "I Dreamed A Dream" from the Broadway musical "Les Miserables," made more famous by "Britain's Got Talent" winner Susan Boyle.
3. Billy Crystal leads a big, celebrity-packed musical number.
Actor and comedian Billy Crystal led a musical number set to the tune of "So Long, Farewell" from the musical "The Sound of Music." It featured what he called the Shut Your Von Trapp Family Singers and celebrities such as reality stars Kim Kardashian, who Leno and other talk show hosts have mocked on their shows for years.
"So long, farewell, last night I told my folks. Now I won't be the butt of Leno's jokes!" sang Kardashian, who sported a tight, white dress and her newly-dyed brunette locks.
The other celebrities who took part in the musical number were Jack Black, NBA star Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers, Sheryl Crow, "The Big Bang Theory" star Jim Parsons, comedienne and actress Carol Burnett -- who gave a "Tarzan" yell and Oprah Winfrey.
"So long, farewell, you've really raised the bar. If you were me, you'd buy them all a car!" sang the longtime syndicated talk show host, who famously gave her audience members cars in 2004.
4. Jay Leno tears up recalling the past 22 years on "The Tonight Show."
"Boy, this is the hard part," Leno said. "I want to thank you, the audience. You folks have been just incredibly loyal. This is tricky. We wouldn't be on the air without you people. Secondly, this has been the greatest 22 years of my life. I am the luckiest guy in the world. I got to meet presidents, astronauts, movie stars. It's just been incredible."
"I got to work with lighting people who made me look better than I really am," he added. "I got to work with audio people who made me sound better than I really do. And I got to work with ... just ... writers. And just all kinds of talented people who make me look a lot smarter than I really am."
5. Jay Leno calls his staff his "family."
"I'll tell you something -- first year of this show, I lost my mom," Leno continued, his voice wavering. "Second year, I lost my dad. Then my brother died and after that, I was pretty much out of family. And then, the folks here became my family. Consequently, when they went through rough times, I tried to be there for them."
Leno was named the official host of "The Tonight Show" in 1992, after Johnny Carson left the series. He hosted the program until 2009, when Conan O'Brien, host of the subsequent "Late Show," took over. Leno was then given another talk show on NBC. His new series and "The Tonight Show With Conan O'brien" received lackluster ratings. In 2001, following a dispute with NBC over a proposed time slot change, Leno was then brought back to replace O'Brien.
"The last time we left the show, you remember, we had the 64 children who were among all our staffers that married," Leno said on Thursday's show. "That was a great moment. And when people say to me, 'Hey, why don't you go to ABC? Why don't you go to FOX?' ... I didn't know anybody over there. There are the only people I've ever known."
"I'm also proud to say this is a union show," he added. "And I have never worked with a more professional group of people in my life. They get paid good money and they do a good job. And when the guys and women on this show me the new car they bought or the house up the street here in Burbank, that one of the guys got, I felt I played the bigger role in their success, as they played in mine. And that was just a great feeling."
6. Jay Leno quotes his predecessor, Johnny Carson.
"You know, it's fun to kind of be the old guy and sit back here and see where the next generation takes this great institution and it really is -- it's been a great institution for 60 years," Leno said. "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."
"And in closing, I want to quote Johnny Carson, who was the greatest guy to ever do this job. And he said, 'I bid you all a heartfelt goodnight."
Jimmy Fallon of "SNL" fame currently hosts "Late Night" and is set to take over as host of "The Tonight Show" on Feb. 17. The series is also moving from its longtime home in Los Angeles to New York, where Fallon lives.
7. Jimmy Fallon to Jay Leno: You can always come home.
In the celebrity tribute video, Fallon told Leno: "I really appreciate the phone calls and just, every time, even checking up on me, it means the world to me. But I wanted to let you know that if a big story ever breaks, and you have your head full of jokes and you just have to get it out there, you can always come home and tell them on 'The Tonight Show.' Thank you so much, Jay."
Where was Kevin Eubanks?
Longtime "Tonight Show" band leader, who left the show in 2010, did not appear on the host's final episode because he was on tour and was in France at the time, Leno said, adding that the guitarist called him and said he would not be back in Los Angeles until next week.
"He's with us in spirit, certainly," the host said.
Conan O'Brien jokes about Jay Leno's departure, David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel also comment.
On his TBS talk show "Conan," which featured the cast of "The Walking Dead" (read a recap - includes 7 best moments and videos), Conan O'Brien said during his monologue: "The Olympics start airing tonight on NBC. It's very cool. That's right, NBC has the Olympics. It's a big deal. NBC will finally get to show somebody who is OK with passing the torch ... I allowed myself one, but it was a good one."
Longtime Leno rival David Letterman also commented about the host's exit on his CBS talk show "The Late Show."
"Congratulations on a wonderful run," he said. "And I'll tell you something -- if I was Jay Leno and I was retiring, you know what I would do? I'd go out and buy myself a car."
ABC late-night host Jimmy Kimmel had also congratulated Leno on what he called "an incredible run."
Watch videos from Jay Leno's (second) final "Tonight Show" sendoff below.