*Jay Leno signed off of the “Tonight Show” for good on Thursday, but not before basking in a musical sendoff orchestrated by his lone sit-down guest, Billy Crystal.
Set to The Sound of Music’s “So long, Farewell,” Crystal offered a few lines of repurposed lyrics, before surprise guests started coming out — each one a bit more famous than the last.
Jack Black, Kim Kardashian, Chris Paul, Sheryl Crow and Jim Parsons each sang a lyric before Crystal brought out the big guns: Carol Burnett and Oprah Winfrey.
– Jack Black: “So long, farewell auf wiedersehen, my dear. If Fallon tanks you’ll be back here next year.”
– Kim Kardashian: “So long, farewell, last night I told my folks, ‘Now I won’t be butt of Leno’s jokes’.”
– Sheryl Crow: “So long, farewell, I give a little wave. But not for Jay – I want to get on Dave.”
– Chris Paul: “So long, farewell, you won the latenight race. But I don’t care, the Clips are in first place.”
– The Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons: “So long, farewell, we’ve watched you and we’re weary. Your great success is called The Big Chin Theory.”
– Carol Burnett: “So long, farewell. I’m here so what the hell. For your last show, I’ll do the Tarzan Yell. Aiaiaiaiaia!”
– Oprah Winfrey: “So long, farewell, you really raised the bar. If you were me, you’d buy them all a car!”
And that’s where the laughter started to wind down. After Leno’s lone musical guest Garth Brooks sang a personal request of Leno’s, “The Dance,” the host took one last sit at the desk.
Below, Billy Crystal and the Shut Your Von Trapp Family Singers. (Musical number starts at 2:15):
“This is the hard part,” he said, with a crack in his voice and dewy eyes. “This is tricky. I have to thank the audience. We wouldn’t be on the air without you people. This has been the greatest 22 years of my life.”
“I am the luckiest guy in the world. I got to meet presidents, astronauts, movie stars,” he continued, distinctive chin trembling. “First year of this show, I lost my mom; second year, I lost my dad. Then my brother died. I was pretty much out of family. The folks here became my family … When people to say to me, ‘Why didn’t you go to ABC? Why didn’t you go to Fox?’ I didn’t know anybody there. These are the only people I’ve ever known.”
Leno ended by quoting Carson, who he called “the greatest” to ever have his job, mirroring his own Tonight signoff: “I bid you all a heartfelt goodbye.” But in an effort to not end on a somber note, he threw it back to Brooks, who launched into a rendition of “Friends in Low Places.”
Last night’s final “Tonight Show With Jay Leno” pulled in a whooping 9.2 household rating in the metered markets. That’s the best the show has done since March 19, 2009 when President Obama first appeared on the show as the first sitting Commander-In-Chief to do a late-night show. It was higher than Leno’s previous “The Tonight Show” finale in May 2009, which drew a 8.8 rating. Leno almost tripled Tonight Show‘s delivery last Thursday, when the show posted a 3.5 rating. The 9.2 finale rating caps a strong last week for Leno, in which he had been building in the ratings every night, with a 3.9 on Monday, 4.2 on Tuesday and 4.3 on Wednesday.
The final episode of “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” airs Friday, and Fallon takes over “The Tonight Show” starting Feb. 17.
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