Jay Leno: After 22 Years, Final "Tonight" Show is Tonight

Jay Leno carried Johnny Carson’s legacy admirably and he goes out on top. To me, Carson is still king, but that’s probably because I grew up on Carson – I’m a little older than most Dopers, so I imagine there are several who regard Leno as king. Congrats to Jay Leno, it was a good run.
And, OMG, thank goodness that Joan Rivers was not Johnny Carson’s replacement, and Jay Leno was!

For real this time? No 9 o’clock show? Really really?

Don’t worry, kids. He’ll be back in six months once Jimmy Fallon’s ratings don’t immediately top every other show in the time slot.

Lorne Michaels will take a hit out him if he does. Nobody fucks with Lorne.

There are probably some people who consider Leno king, but I don’t think there are many amongst us here.

There are definitely fans of Jay Leno here. There are definitely Dopers who count Jay Leno as their favorite current late night host. But we don’t seem to have any Jay Leno superfans here.

I’m basing this on my memory of the Leno vs Conan Thread years back when Conan was losing Tonight back to Leno. There were zealots on the pro-Conan side, but the pro-Leno side was never more emotional than a simple “I like Leno, I don’t like Conan” sometimes even a completely emotionless “Look at the ratings: Conan isn’t doing well, it’s a good business decision to bring Jay back”.

I’d guess that the biggest Leno fans here are probably more the “Carson was king” types.

I saw a recent statistic that Leno made more jokes about Bill Clinton than anyone else. That’s why I gave up watching him. Several years after Clinton left office, Leno was still making Clinton jokes. It became real old hat, and we haven’t watched him in over a decade.

Carson was King.

Accept no substitutes.

Didn’t he quit like 3 years ago?

Jay is going out with the #1 late night show. That’s quite an accomplishment for a network that doesn’t value his talent.

He’s kept me laughing since high school. I’ll miss him.

When Leno took over, I really didn’t think he’d be on for so long. Carson was almost required viewing. My parents, and us when old enough and not on school nights would watch his monologue and more if we could stay up.

When Leno took over, there were more options. I would occasionally tune in and switch between him and Letterman. As I got older I got out of the habit of watching those shows. With DVDs and Netflix I pretty much have abandoned network TV. I may watch the last show if available online, but don’t feel it’s anything I must watch.

While I really do respect his longevity, his delivery and presence has always had a mechanical feel to it. Geoff Peterson for example has a far more human vibe.

He held onto his audience, which isn’t that easy to do. You can knock his delivery style or say his jokes are too safe, but it has worked for him. Letterman can piss and moan about not getting the gig, but the proof is in the numbers, Leno outperformed him. I like them both, but Jay draws better ratings. As for Conan, he blew it. The show’s ratings tanked with him and they had to make a change. You can think you’re a great pitcher but if all your balls wind up over the fence, you don’t stay in long.

I think Fallon will do fine. There’s an outside chance that he fumbles the show and they bring back Leno, but I don’t think so this time. Fallon has a little broader appeal than Conan.

Must we do this again? They’ve paid him hundreds of millions of dollars and he’s been on the air for 20 years. If they didn’t appreciate him as much as they could have at the end, they still treated him awfully well.

What are the Magical Leno moments that rival the things we remember about Carson? What will be featured on the half hour infomercial selling the Best Of Leno 3 dvd set?

My favorite moments were when he was guest-hosting for Carson. One that sticks in my memory was when some zoo person came with a large toad, which he placed in Leno’s hand, sitting with it’s ass in his palm.

Leno started doing schtick with it, holding it up, singing “A son! A son!” from Fiddler On The Roof and started using it as a ventriloquist’s dummy “Say hello to the people, Jimmy!” Screamingly funny.

Asking Hugh Grant (post-Divine Brown) “What were you thinking?”

His best moments were on someone elses’ show? Aren’t there any moments from his own show to rival, say, the Ed Ames Tomahawk Debacle? The time Carson found out his favorite coffee cup was broken after Don Rickles had guest-hosted so he left the studio with cameras in tow to confront Rickles during a shooting of “CPO Sharkey”? Or the time that Orson Welles brought a painting with him and told a tale about it full of life, love and loss that had the audience in tears, Carson included…then revealed that he had picked up the painting in a yard sale that morning and that the entire tale he had just told was absolute bullshit?

Anything like that?

I mostly watch the the Daily Show, and the Conan show on MuchMusic, but Leno was 'aight. I feel like the late night talk show genre as a whole is one of those institutions, like the evening newscast, that just isn’t as big a cultural deal as it was back before I was alive. That’s why Leno was never as big as Johnny Carson was, IMHO. Correct me if I’m completely out in left field.

To echo another poster above, the Hugh Grant interview will probably be the thing most people remember, maybe the night Bobcat Goldthwait set his chair on fire.

But you have to keep in mind also, that Leno’s tenure took place at time of major audience fragmentation. So, even if he did have a lot of really funny, outrageous moments on his show, they really wouldn’t hold the same iconic status as those that took place when Carson was pretty much the only name in late night.

I’m not old enough to remember CaRSON (I’ll be 36 in 3 weeks) but Carson is the GOAT in latenite.