Jay Leno's Emotional Goodbye To 'The Tonight Show'

Jay Leno's Emotional Goodbye To 'The Tonight Show'

A surprising and touching moment in TV history was played out as Jay Leno broke down in tears while bidding farewell to The Tonight Show.

He said, "This has been the greatest 23 years of my life. The first year of this show I lost my mom. The second year, I lost my dad. Then, my brother died. After that, I was out of family, and the folks here became my family."

Leno's unprecedented display of emotion was not lost on his final musical guest and good buddy, Garth Brooks.

Brooks said, "It was cool to see Jay Leno not comfortable in Jay Leno's zone, he cried a lot! Good for him! I just love him to pieces."

USC Annenberg journalism professor Mary Murphy told INSIDE EDITION, "Jay Leno was more emotional than he has ever been. And finally, we saw the boy behind the man. We saw the fragile guy behind the comic."

Leno's finale was also full of fun moments including a playful swipe at his employer, NBC, he gagged, "I don't like goodbyes. NBC does!"

A who's who of Hollywood stars gave taped tributes to Leno, including President Obama, the target of more than a thousand Leno jokes!

Obama said in a taped joke, "I've decided to make you my new ambassador to Antarctica! Hope you have a warm coat, funny man."

Leno's fellow late night hosts said goodbye to him in their own playful ways.

David Letterman joked, "If I was Jay Leno and I was retiring, I’d go out and buy myself a car."

Jimmy Kimmel and Leno have been bickering for years, but Kimmel tweeted: "Issues aside, twenty years at number one is a remarkable achievement. Congratulations and best wishes to @jayleno on an incredible run."

But Al Roker didn't believe Kimmel was sincere saying, "That Jimmy Kimmel one is disingenuous! He slammed the guy!"

Billy Crystal, Leno’s first guest in 1992, was his final guest. Crystal said, "You are America’s night light. You helped us through good times and bad."

Crystal led a chorus of surprise guests in a musical spoof of The Sound of Music that included Jack Black, Kim Kardashian, Carol Burnett, and Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah sang, "So long, farewell, you really raised the bar! If you were me, you'd buy them all a car!"

Then, it was time for Leno to say good night, one last time. He said, "I am the luckiest guy in the world."

You'll recall how the late Johnny Carson said goodbye to The Tonight Show in 1992, saying, "I bid you all a heartfelt good night."

Leno echoed those words for his farewell, "In closing, I want to quote Johnny Carson, the greatest guy to ever to do this job. He said, 'I bid you all a heartfelt good night.'"

Later, Leno attended a party with Tonight Show staffers before heading home. Nice guy to the end, he signed autographs, flashed the peace sign, and posed for a picture with a fan and drove off for the last time.

Related Coverage