Jay Leno takes final bow on ‘The Tonight Show’ (Lead)

May 31st, 2009 - 9:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Michael Jackson New York, May 31 (IANS) American television personality Jay Leno has ended his 17-year stint as the host of “The Tonight Show” with a 3,775th show.
The talk-show host made his final appearance Friday night by what he called “the greatest thing we’ve ever done” and welcoming the 68 kids born to his staff during his run on the show, reports The New York Times.

He saluted Warren Littlefield, the former NBC entertainment president who stood by him in the early days of his show, and his wife of more than 30 years, Mavis, who took a bow in the audience.

He then thanked Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Monica Lewinsky and Michael Jackson for giving him so much material.

He also introduced his successor, Conan O’Brien, his final couch guest, saying “I couldn’t be prouder of him”, and called him “a terrific guy and a good friend”.

Leno’s final show was much like many of the others, filled with monologue jokes and some of his signature comedy pieces. He presented highlights of many of those pieces during his last week, but saved perhaps the most popular “Jaywalking” for the finale.

The segment consisted of Leno asking basic questions to people in the street, who came up with mind-boggling answers.

The audience greeted him with what was most likely the most sustained ovation of his career, and he had to insist they sit before he could begin. The now white-haired show host talked about changes he and the show had gone through, noting that when he started his hair was “black and the president was white”.

Harking back to one of his favourite targets, the comedian said he had been cleaning out his desk Friday and found “O.J.’s knife - it was in there the whole time.”

Joking about his future spot on NBC each weeknight at 10, he said, “I’m going to a secluded location where no one can find me - NBCs prime time.” NBC has yet to announce the starting date for his new show, but Leno said it would be in September.

During his final week as the host of “The Tonight Show,” the ratings were up each night by about 21 percent on average over his ratings this year. His second-to-last show, with a special song tribute from Billy Crystal, was up by 33 percent.

Leno’s final musical guest was his old friend James Taylor who sang the former’s request “Sweet Baby James”.

He also mentioned many of his top staff members by name including longtime executive producer, Debbie Vickers, his assistant from the beginning Helga Pollock, the NBC late-night executive Rick Ludwin, and the band leader Kevin Eubanks, whom Leno thanked for helping cover up the occasional failed jokes.

Most of the staff is expected to join him for his new show. Leno wrapped up by asking viewers to “please give Conan as much support as you’ve given me throughout the years”.

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