Friday, February 7, 2014

One Last Night in Burbank: A Teary -- and Rainy -- Farewell for Jay Leno

The rain in Burbank seemed fitting Thursday night, as Jay Leno and "The Tonight Show" said farewell to the city. Leno hosted for 22 years on the (now former NBC) lot, while the show had been produced there since Johnny Carson moved to L.A. in 1972.

I was in a media screening room to watch the finale and summed it up for

Kicking off the monologue, Leno promised that this was his last show "for real. I don't need to get fired three times. I get the hint. I get the hint." Later, he added, "I got to tell you, the outpouring from people. It's really been touching. Today Anthony Weiner sent me a photo of his penis looking sad."

Final guest Billy Crystal serenaded Leno with a joke-filled tribute and then introduced a cavalcade of celebrities to sing their own verses, including Jack Black ("If Fallon tanks you'll be back here next year"), Kim Kardashian, Los Angeles Clippers player Chris Paul, singer Sheryl Crow, The Big Bang Theory's Jim Parsons, Carol Burnett and Oprah Winfrey.

In a pre-taped piece, Kevin Bacon, Steve Carell, Bob Costas, Bill Maher, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Hart, Charlie Sheen ("Buy NBC and fire everybody") and Dana Carvey gave their advice on what Leno should do next. And President Obama, in the piece, joked that he had no hard feelings about Leno's swipes — and planned to name the host "the new ambassador to Antarctica."

With wife Mavis in the audience, Leno choked back tears as he gave his farewell. "This is the hard part," he said, halting several times to regain composure. "We wouldn't be on the air without you people. This has been the greatest 22 years of my life. I am the luckiest guy in the world."

Leno noted that his parents and brother died early in the show's run. After that, "the folks here became my family. People say, 'Why don't you go to ABC or Fox? But I didn't know anybody over there. These are the people I know... I'm excited for Jimmy Fallon. It's fun to be the old guy and see where the next generation takes this institution. It really is time to go."

Read the full story here, and my exit interview with the host here.

Leno, of course, drove a different car to the studio every day. Here was his parking spot last night:


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