Jay Leno ended his run as host of the "Tonight Show" Friday, which he began 17 years ago after taking over from Johnny Carson. He was greeted by a large standing ovation from the audience to begin the show, and he concluded the evening by inviting on stage all the children who had been born to people who had met while working on the program (which turned out to be 68!). During his monologue he made sure to thank all the people that had made it possible over the years: "Michael Jackson, Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton." And in one of the sweetest lines of the night he talked about how he was proud to be "leaving this dance with the same girl I came in with."
Conan O'Brien, who will be taking over "Tonight Show" duties on Monday, was Leno's final guest. James Taylor was the last musical guest.
Watch a clip of Conan and Jay from the final episode. Scroll down for more details from the AP.
WATCH Jay's final goodnight:
After noting that former Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush were taking part in a joint speaking engagement in Canada, Leno remarked wistfully: "I wish I had one more day."
He didn't refrain from mocking his network although he's moving to NBC's prime-time schedule this fall.
He was offered the chance to buy his dressing-room robe for $40, he quipped, and then gave NBC a sharp dig over its slumping prime-time ratings.
His new show represents a gamble, Leno said: "I'm betting NBC will be around in three months. That's not a given."
Leno also fit in a last shot at O.J. Simpson, another monologue favorite. In cleaning out his office today, the comedian said, "I found O.J.'s knife. I had it the whole time."
He did his now-customary one-liners about the economy, and then paid tribute to Rodney Dangerfield, the routine's inspiration, with old "Tonight" clips. Dangerfield died in 2004.
Leno was ushered on stage with a Jimi Hendrix-flavored version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" played by bandleader Kevin Eubanks, who tried to tell a joke and, to Leno's delight, flubbed it.
A new segment was introduced called "White Trash Theater," which consisted of a clip of a woman trying to drive a man away from her porch by hitting him with a beer bottle and a trash-can lid.
Leno leaves "Tonight" atop the late-night ratings, his run abbreviated by NBC's decision five years ago to create a succession plan that gives "Tonight" to Conan O'Brien.