There were tears, laughs and memories as Jay Leno taped his final episode of “The Tonight Show” after 22 years on Thursday.
The comedian, who was born in New Rochelle and lived on Leland Ave. for part of his childhood, was emotional during the star-studded show. Tears in his eyes, he recalled that his mother died during his first year as host of the late night talk show. His father, a former Westchester-based insurance salesman who moved the Leno family to Massachusetts, died just one year after his mother’s death. Jay’s only sibling, attorney Patrick Leno, passed away in 2002.
“After that, I was pretty much out of family, and the folks here became my family,” he said. “Consequently, when they went through hard times, I tried to be here for them. 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.”
And more people Jay knew stopped by the “Tonight Show” set in Burbank to wish him well on Thursday. Billy Crystal, who was his first guest in 1992, ended up being the final guest on Jay’s couch. The longtime friends reminisced about their early days as struggling comedians.
Stars from Miley Cyrus to Tyler Perry appeared in prerecorded messages giving Jay advice on what to do next. Then former guests including Oprah Winfrey, Carol Burnett, and Kim Kardashian came out for a performance of “So Long, Farewell.” Each star sang a funny verse written for Jay. Oprah’s memorable line: “So long, farewell. You really raised the bar. If you were me, you’d buy them all a car!”
Jay didn’t give his audience members car keys, but he did deliver a funny final monologue at the start of the show. During the bit, he recalled what life was like when he was he first started the show in 1992. “When I started hosting, Justin Bieber wasn’t even been born yet… That’s why we call those the good old days,” he quipped.
Jay’s good friend Garth Brooks was the musical guest. Tears might have been flowing when he performed “The Dance,” but he lightened the mood with a performance of “Friends in Low Places” at the end of the show.
After the song, as the credits rolled, Jay ended his “Tonight Show” run by calling out to his wife Mavis, “I’m coming home, honey!”
Thoughts: How do you feel about Jay Leno leaving “The Tonight Show?” Are you looking forward to watching his replacement, Sugarties native Jimmy Fallon, starting Feb. 17? Tell us in the comments.
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