By: Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb

From the NBC Tonight show with Jay Leno.

From “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”.

Regardless of where one’s allegiance is in the late night talk show arena, last night was clearly an American cultural milestone when an emotional Jay Leno wrapped up 22 years as host of the iconic “Tonight Show”. The show included a stellar performance by country artist Garth Brooks of his classic “The Dance “- a favorite of Leno’s, the moving, bittersweet lyrics of the ballad seemed to sum up his departure.

“And now I’m glad I didn’t know – The way it all would end, the way it all would go – Our lives are better left to chance – I could have missed the pain – but I’d have had to miss the dance,” sang Brooks.

From The Tonight Show with Jay Leno - Garth Brooks perfroms "The Dance."

From “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno “- Garth Brooks performs”The Dance.”


From “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”.

Despite retaining his spot at the top of television ratings with recent ratings having climbed even higher, the 63-year-old Leno is being replaced by NBC for the second time reportedly for the same reason, to bring in an audience demographic ages 18-35 said to appeal more to advertisers. In 2009, the network replaced Leno with Conan O’Brien but when ratings dropped Leno was brought back – now he is being replaced with Jimmy Fallon leading to quips from guests during Leno’s final show that if Fallon fails, Jay will be summoned back again.

In his monologue Leno took a jab at the network, “I don’t like good-byes, NBC does, I don’t,” he said, adding that he didn’t need to get fired a third time to get the message.

Leno appeared to be taking his final bow as “Tonight Show” host saying it was time to pass the torch. He spoke of how much it has meant to him to be in a position to interview presidents, astronaunts and movie stars.

“This has been the greatest 22 years of my life,” he said with wife Mavis in the audience.

A native New Englander, he especially thanked the viewers for their loyalty and in a display of the same asked them to tune in for Fallon. In another example of loyalty, Billy Crystal who was Leno’s first guest when he took over the “Tonight Show” reins was his last guest – making good on words Crystal said Leno uttered to him in that initial appearance.

“Promise made, promise kept,” Crystal said.

He described Leno as “America’s nightlight.”

“You have helped us through good times and bad,” said Crystal, estimating that Leno had done some 160,000 jokes during his tenure.

Crystal led a parody of “So Long Farewell” from “The Sound of Music” with cameos from Jack Black, Kim Kardashian, Jim Parsons, Los Angles Clippers point guard Chris Paul, Sheryl Crow, Carol Burnett and Oprah Winfrey. As well, there were taped messages from other celebrities and President Barack Obama – a target of many Leno jokes, Obama said humorously he would now make Leno the ambassador to Antactica.

In his closing remarks Leno became choked up, explaining why he had stuck with NBC instead of moving to another network.

“The first year of this show I lost my mom; the second year I lost my dad. Then my brother died and after that I was pretty much out of family. The folks here became my family,” said Leno.

He added that he was proud it was a “union show” where the workers were paid well,

In a tip of the hat to Johnny Carson, Leno’s predecessor whom he praised as the consummate “Tonight Show” host, Leno noted he wanted to sign off with the same words Carson used when his run came to an end –  “I bid you all a heartfelt goodnight.”

Then he turned to Brooks asking him to play something to lift the mood in the studio – “Now that I’ve brought the room down,” said Leno.

Brooks launched into another of his classics the raucus “I’ve Got Friends in Low Places.” The show wrapped with the audience singing along and Leno and Brooks arm and arm.