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Emotional Jay Leno Bids Star-Studded Farewell to Tonight Show (Reuters)
Comedian Jay Leno said an emotional goodbye to The Tonight Show on Thursday with a star-studded farewell led by actor Billy Crystal, after hosting the NBC late-night program for more than 20 years and handing the reins over to Jimmy Fallon. Leno, 63, who took over one of U.S. broadcast television’s marquee programs in 1992 from Johnny Carson, came out to a standing ovation from the audience of friends and family, shaking hands with many as he did in each show. Variety Characteristically, Leno wasn’t particularly maudlin or sentimental at first, at least compared to Carson’s “very heartfelt goodnight” that preceded Leno’s briefly interrupted stint as Carson’s successor. THR / The Live Feed Celebrity friends — or, in some cases, just celebrities — that appeared onstage included Jack Black, Kim Kardashian, Chris Paul, Sheryl Crow, Jim Parsons, Carol Burnett and Oprah Winfrey. The seven joined Billy Crystal in a snarky musical salute to Leno, and Winfrey got one of the night’s biggest laughs by singing a line of Crystal’s slightly tweaked “So Long, Farewell” from The Sound of Music. TheWrap The episode felt like an affectionate roast. Leno, once accused of jealously refusing to yield the show, was plenty generous with airtime. He left it to others to get most of the laughs, though he got plenty of his own too: At one point he said the real shame was that in all his time on the show, O.J. Simpson never found the real killers. The Washington Post / Television It wasn’t until Leno’s tearful speech at the end that this final show felt worthy of shelf space in television’s historical vault. “Boy this is the hard part,” Leno said, quickly verklempt. He thanked his audience and talked about how lucky he felt to have interviewed “presidents, astronauts, movie stars…” But he was most appreciative of his hard-working, union-labor staff: “The first year of this show I lost my mom; the second year I lost my dad. Then my brother died and after that I was pretty much out of family. The folks here became my family,” Leno said. “When people say to me, ‘Hey, why don’t you go to ABC, why don’t you go to Fox?’ — [but] I didn’t know anybody over there. These are the only people I know.”