Jay Leno left 'em laughing as he performed his final monologue from The Tonight Show stage Friday, taking time to thank those who made his show successful – Monica Lewinsky, Michael Jackson, and Bill Clinton – and to reflect on how much time has past since he first took over the stage from his mentor Johnny Carson in 1992.
"When we started this show," Leno told a cheering crowd in the standing-room-only studio in Burbank, "my hair was black and the president was white. When we started the show, Jon and Kate were both eight."
Before his successor, the younger, taller and visibly more nervous Conan O'Brien, took a seat on the couch next to him, Leno noted that the same security guard who has checked him in for the last 17 years offered the same greeting as he drove on the studio lot Friday night: "And you are?"
As for souvenirs, Leno said, "NBC has been nothing but great. [President and CEO of NBC Universal] Jeff Zucker said for $40, I can purchase the robe that's hanging in my dressing room."
After tonight, which marked the 3,775th Tonight Show with Jay Leno, the host said, "I'm going to be going to a secluded spot where no one can find me – NBC prime time."
Leno's new hour-long comedy show will premiere on NBC at the 10 p.m. timeslot on a date to be announced in September.
we love you, jay. thank you for 17 years of laughter!