Jay Leno bids farewell to "Tonight Show"

Sat May 30, 2009 12:13am EDT
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By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Jay Leno bid farewell to "The Tonight Show" on Friday, ending his 17-year run as host with a finale that stayed true to the style that made him the top-rated performer on U.S. late-night television.

The main difference was a long ovation that Leno struggled to quiet as he took the stage for an opening monologue that poked fun, as usual, at politicians, celebrities and current events.

He thanked the likes of pop star Michael Jackson and former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, whose affair with Bill Clinton led to the former U.S. president's impeachment, for giving him material over the years. He also took a final jab at his network, NBC, which is mired at the bottom of the ratings among the four major U.S. broadcasters.

Leno takes his act to 10 p.m. on NBC this autumn, where he will mount a program expected to be similar to the "Tonight Show" but attract a wider audience than the roughly 5 million viewers, on average, who tune in nightly to the broadcast.

"I'm going to be going to a secluded spot where no one can find me -- NBC prime time," Leno said. "It's a gamble. I'm betting NBC will still be around in three months, but that's not a given."

He joked that he had finally cleaned out his office and "found O.J.'s knife. I had it the whole time," referring to former football star O.J. Simpson, who was acquitted on charges he murdered his wife in the mid-1990s.

Leno even introduced a new segment, "White Trash Theater," which showed a video clip of a woman throwing a trash can at a man to get him off her porch.


<p>"The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" host Jay Leno (R) interviews Conan O'Brien, during Leno's final show in Burbank, California, May 29, 2009. O'Brien will take over as host on Monday. REUTERS/Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank/Handout</p>