Jay Leno said goodbye to The Tonight Show on Thursday, flanked by a star-studded cast of co-stars that included Kim Kardashian, Sheryl Crow, Oprah Winfrey and Billy Crystal — who had the distinction of being Leno’s first guest when the comic took over the Tonight reigns from Johnny Carson in 1992.
Things became emotional when Jay addressed his viewers directly in a heartfelt speech that brought him to tears:
“I’ll tell you something. 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 pretty much out of family, and the folks here became my family. Consequently, when they went through rough times, I tried to be there for them.”
“People say to me, ‘Why didn’t you go to ABC, to Fox?’ I don’t know anybody over there. These are the only people I have ever known.”
Finally, Jay set the stage for his successor, Jimmy Fallon.
“I’m really excited for Jimmy Fallon. It’s fun to be the old guy and see where the next generation takes this great institution. I’m so glad I got to be a part of it, but it really is time to go and hand it to the next guy. And, in conclusion, I want to quote Johnny Carson: ‘I bid you all a heartfelt good night.’”
Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show, live from New York City, premieres Monday, Feb. 17.