On May 29, 2009, after 17 years, thousands of monologues and just as many guests, Jay Leno hosted his final Tonight Show. Here we take a look back at 10 of his most memorable moments.
On March 19, 2009, President Barack Obama stopped by to chat with Leno, thus becoming the first sitting president to appear on a talk show. Leno has hosted a number of presidential hopefuls in his day – John McCain, John Kerry and George W. Bush come to mind.
2. Saying Goodbye to Johnny Carson
Leno was joined by former Tonight Show
announcer and sidekick Ed McMahon
on Jan. 24, 2005, the day after Johnny Carson died. The show had no opening credits and Leno offered his thoughts about Carson during his short monologue.
3. Post September 11th Monologue
Jay returns to the Tonight Show on Sept. 18, 2001, one week after the terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. His monologue is emotional and subdued. He welcomes members of FEMA’s Urban Search and Rescue team, who described working conditions at Ground Zero and hailed the work of the rescuers in New York and Washington.
4. The Governator
Kevin Winter/Getty Images
California Governor Arnold Schwarzeneggar, who will be one of Leno’s final guests on the Tonight Show, announced his intention to run for governor on the Tonight Show in August 2003.
5. Colin Farrell’s Stalker
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
During a July 2006 episode, Leno was interviewing actor Colin Farrell when a woman came on stage unexpectedly. The woman was a stalker of Farrell. She slammed a book on Leno’s desk, made rude comments and was eventually removed from the stage by Farrell. Farrell handed her to NBC security – and Leno gave security a sarcastic round of applause.
6. Red Sox Celebrate the End of 'The Curse'
James McIsaac/Getty Images
After the Boston Red Sox broke ‘The Curse’ and won its first World Series in 2004 (the team’s last championship was in 1918), Leno, a Massachusetts native, invited members of the team on the show to celebrate their victory.
Toby Canham/Getty Images
After never missing a show, less than a month away from signing-off, Jay takes a sick day. In fairness, the sick day was forced on him, as the nurse at NBC ordered him (in so many words) to check-in at a local hospital after Leno arrives with chills, aches and pains.
David McNew/Staff Getty Images
During the 2007/08 Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike, Jay shows his support for his fellow writers by bringing food to the strike line and encouraging them to fight the good fight. But after his return to the Tonight Show
during the strike, the Guild questions whether he violated Guild rules by allegedly writing his own monologue (Jay is a WGA member). Leno was brought before the Guild in February 2009 to answer questions about his monologue. Presently, it is unclear if a decision has been rendered.
9. Makes Friends from ‘Cheers’ ...
Alex Wong/Getty Images
In May 1993 when the NBC sitcom Cheers signed off, Leno hosted (via satellite) from The Bull & Finch Bar in Boston, the exterior location of the fictional Cheers. That show was noted for its seemingly inebriated cast members (who had been celebrating all night long). Leno had a tough time wrangling the stars from his L.A. studio.
10. ... And Says Cheers to ‘Friends’
In May 2004, similar to the way he toasted Cheers more than a decade before, Leno hosted an entire episode of the Tonight Show from the set of the hit NBC sitcom, Friends. The long-running comedy show – a No. 1 hit for the network – had just completed its final season.