22 year reign comes to an end
Published: Sunday, February 9, 2014
Updated: Sunday, February 9, 2014 21:02
Long live the king.
Ever since the retirement of the legendary Johnny Carson, the world of late night television has become increasingly divided with multiple shows across various networks duking it out in the same crowded time slots.
In spite of ever increasing competition, Jay Leno has managed to consistently keep his program atop the ratings and this past Thursday, he left the “Tonight Show” as he found it: at No. 1.
Critics and fellow comedians can denounce his “safe” brand of comedy as stale, unoriginal and unimpressive, but like it or not, if you lead the ratings for the better part of twenty years, you must be doing something right.
Fittingly, Jay’s final “Tonight Show” lacked the pomp and circumstance the retirement of such an icon one might expect. Although packed with a flurry of celebrity support, the tone of Leno’s last show wasn’t that of a jubilant retirement party, but that of a somber send off that could be summarized in three simple words “We’ll miss you.”
Leno came out and delivered one final monologue, the part of the job he’ll probably miss the most, before settling in for an outpouring of support by a flurry of celebrities.
Jack Black, Kim Kardashian, Chris Paul, Jim Parsons, Sheryl Crow Oprah Winfrey and Carol Burnett made very memorable appearances singing a personalized rendition of “So Long, Farewell” with the latter doing her famous Tarzan yell.
Other notable celebrities appeared via videotape including Kevin Bacon and President Barack Obama, the latter of which humorously named Leno the new U.S. ambassador to Antarctica.
Billy Crystal, Leno’s very first guest on “Tonight” all the way back in 1992, made a return appearance as Leno’s very last guest, offering the host a very kind series send off of words.
A notable absentee from the festivities was Kevin Eubanks, Leno’s longtime bandleader, who Leno mentioned on air as currently being on tour.
When at last it came time for Leno to say his final goodbye to his devoted audience, a visibly emotional Leno thanked his crew, whom the host told the audience had been his family.
To finish it off, musical guest Garth Brooks played off the host for the very last time with “Friends in Low Places.”
It was a sendoff fitting of a man who had always claimed he was just a regular guy.
Jay Leno has gained as many detractors as he has fans in his time hosting late night’s crown jewel. He’s played it safe, and in an age where the subject of late night humor frequently turns to America’s fractured politics, Leno is one of the few who can be praised for distributing punchlines evenly amongst the left and the right. A plain spoken man who appealed to the best of middle America, Leno was fired from his job not once, but twice, for no reason other than a misguided attempt to attract a younger viewing demographic. His well documented efforts to acquire the show instead of Carson’s favored successor David Letterman, or his refusal to stand down rather than take back the program from Conan O’Brien in 2010 withstanding, few can deny that Jay Leno deserved better treatment by NBC.