Jay Leno’s Final Tonight Show

Jay Leno signed off from The Tonight Show Thursday night with laughter and touching moments.  His monologue opened with a softer touch than the previous night. On both Wednesday and Thursday nights, he received lengthy standing ovations as the show opened.  His response on Wednesday night was a poke at the audience:  “Where were you when I was negotiating my contract?”  His opening remark on his final night was more gentle, poking fun at himself and frequent target, the network: “I don’t like goodbyes.  NBC does.  But I don’t.” 

The script for his farewell show was a gentle-roast format.  Leno mentioned early in the program that he didn’t know what was coming.  That set the stage for three vehicles to carry the humor: A monologue by Billy Crystal, a slide show, and a song parody.  That format was a better choice than having Leno do it himself.   Delivering the same dose of humor himself about his 22-year tenure would have worn thin the permission factor required for self-deprecation.  Instead, Crystal provided the bookends, having been a guest on Leno’s first show and now a guest on the final show.  Then the slide show provided a number of celebrities, who were unable to be at the show in person, to zap Leno long distance.  Later, a Sound-of-Music parody brought visits from celebrities who had been hiding back stage, with Oprah taking the final spot.  Each celebrity sang a brief one-liner.  Good humor.  Nice pace.  And Leno was placed in a guest-of-honor position.

His heart-felt closing comments were brief and even more poignant thanks to the contrast provided by the guest humor during the evening.

After Leno did his touching thank-you comments, Garth Brooks closed the show on a high note.  It was a wonderful show that will be long remembered.  Jay Leno will be missed.  Best wishes to Jimmy Fallon, the new Tonight Show host.