It was a blast from the past a minute for Jay Leno while taping his final episode of The Tonight Show.
"You're very kind," the outgoing host told the audience in kicking off his last opening monologue. "I don't like goodbyes. NBC does...I don't care for them."
But after Seth MacFarlane popped up unexpectedly last week to join Bill Maher for a "Thanks for the Memories"-style tribute, Leno didn't really think that regularly scheduled guests Billy Crystal and Garth Brooks would be the only ones who showed up to see him off, right?
Sure enough, the celebrity cameos were many, and even those who both sat in the guest's chair and were the target of a lot of his jokes over the years came to say goodbye. Or, in this case, sing "So Long Farewell."
Count Kim Kardashian among those who surprised Leno tonight with a special rendition of the Sound of Music classic, led by Crystal and accompanied by dancers in lederhosen.
"So long, farewell, tonight I told my folks," Kim sang, "and now, I won't be the butt of Leno's jo-okes."
Actually, Kim got off pretty easy compared to some. An official tally compiled by the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University showed that the biggest target was on Bill Clinton's back, the scandal-tinged former president leading all famous types with 4,607 jokes cracked at his expense—1,368 more than runner-up George W. Bush.
A number of celebs taped humorous video messages as well, including Mark Walhberg, who said, "Why would I give a [bleep] about what he does? He's a grown man!"
a touching tribute that brought tears to the usually very stoic Tonight Show host's eyes.
"Boy, this is the hard part," an emotional Leno said toward the end of the show. "I want to thank you—the audience. You folks have been just incredibly loyal and... this is tricky...We wouldn't be on the air without you people. Secondly, this has been the greatest 22 years of my life."
"I am the luckiest guy in the world," he added. "I got to meet presidents and astronauts and movie stars. It's just been incredible."
"I'm really excited for Jimmy Fallon," Leno concluded. "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.'"
Brooks closed the show with his mega-hit "Friends in Low Places."
The final episode of Late Night With Jimmy Fallon airs Friday, and Fallon takes over The Tonight Show starting Feb. 17.
But Leno actually already has a new gig: In a taped goodbye message for Jay, President Barack Obamarevealed he was appointing the comedian ambassador to Antarctica.
"You made a lot of jokes about me over the years—I'm not upset," Obama assured him. "Hope you've got a coat, funnyman!"
(E! Online is a member of the NBCUniversal family.)
(Originally published on Feb. 6, 2014, at 6:45 p.m. PT)
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