Jay Leno wished us all a teary “heartfelt goodnight” last evening as he hosted The Tonight Show for the final time after nearly 22 years in the host’s chair. The night was filled with his usual on-point monologue jokes, comical callbacks to his favorite Tonight moments, and a memorable send-off sing-along run by comedian Billy Crystal. Crystal was Leno’s first guest on the show after taking over for Johnny Carson on March 25, 1992. To say goodbye, he conducted a special version of the Sound of Music classic, “So Long, Farewell” featuring Jack Black, Kim Kardashian, Carol Burnett, and Oprah Winfrey. Leno’s team also put together a great reel of celebrities like Bill Maher and Mark Wahlberg giving their advice on what he should do next. President Barack Obama even offered him the position of Ambassador to Antarctica!
To cap the evening, the 63-year old late-night host gave a touching, emotional goodbye speech while barely holding back his tears. He thanked his audience, his crew, his producers, and his writers. He shared how much the show meant to him over the past 22 years, especially after losing his mother, father, and brother during the earlier years of his television career. The night had plenty of laughs, as we’d expect from Jay and his amazing staff, but it also had the rarely (if ever) seen overwhelming emotion that we hope to see from a man who has finally gained the humility to truly hand off his baby to the next generation. Thank you, Jay, for the laugh (and some of the somewhat-entertaining drama) over the years and giving this country a good laugh each night before you put us to bed.
Watch his farewell speech below and be sure to watch Jimmy Fallon host The Tonight Show at 11:35pm EST on Feb. 17 on NBC.